ELECTION 06: Questions & answers about marriage amends.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Voters in eight states will consider constitutional marriage amendments on Election Day. Below are some commonly asked questions, with answers.

-- What states are voting on marriage amendments?

Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin.

-- Why is an amendment needed?

To prevent judges from legalizing "gay marriage" and also to protect states from being forced to recognize out-of-state "gay marriages." Massachusetts' highest court legalized "gay marriage" more than two years ago. Canada did the same last year. Without an amendment, judges could force a state either to legalize "gay marriage" or to recognize one from another jurisdiction.

-- Why are amendments needed when most of the eight states voting on Election Day already have laws prohibiting "gay marriage"?

Laws, unlike constitutional amendments, can be overturned in state court. Massachusetts' marriage laws were overturned by that state's high court, and Washington state's marriage laws barely survived a legal challenge this summer. And, in October, the New Jersey Supreme Court ordered the legislature either to legalize "gay marriage" or Vermont-style civil unions. None of those states have a marriage amendment.

-- What's a civil union?

Civil unions give same-sex couples all the legal benefits of marriage, except the actual name. They are legal in Connecticut and Vermont. California has something similar but calls them "domestic partnerships."

-- Wouldn't civil unions be a good way to compromise and meet in the middle on this issue?

Homosexual activists have stated their intention to use civil unions as a stepping stone to "gay marriage." Ed Stein, professor of law at the Cardozo School of Law in New York and a leading "gay marriage" supporter, told the homosexual magazine Advocate, "[I]f we can get civil unions in a bunch of states, then we start building pressure in the long run for marriage and to change DOMA." DOMA is the Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 law that prohibits the federal government from recognizing "gay marriage" and gives states the option of doing the same. Activists don’t consider civil unions full victory. Following the New Jersey ruling, Garden State Equality chair Steven Goldstein said, "So help us God, New Jersey's LGBTI community and our millions of straight allies will settle for nothing less than 100 percent marriage equality." Conservatives view civil unions as marriage by another name.

-- Aren't these amendments put on the ballot just to help Republicans?

The amendments have received broad bipartisan support, passing in both conservative states (for instance, Georgia and Mississippi) and more liberal ones (Michigan and Oregon). An amendment that passed in Alabama earlier this year with 81 percent of the vote was sponsored in the state House by two Democrats. In addition, the 20 states that have adopted amendments passed them with an average of 71 percent of the vote -- showing a broad range of backing. Before Massachusetts issued its landmark decision in November 2003, only four states had amendments -- Alaska, Hawaii, Nebraska and Nevada. Conservatives nationwide then began pushing for the amendments to prevent what happened in Massachusetts from happening in other states.

-- If states pass these amendments, then why is a federal marriage amendment needed?

Because state constitutional amendments -- while offering protection against state court rulings -- can be overturned in federal court. Nebraska's marriage amendment was struck down in federal court, although an appeals court panel reversed the decision.

-- I live in one of the eight states voting on marriage amendments on Election Day. What should I look for on the ballot?

Arizona's amendment is called Proposition 107, Colorado's is Amendment 43, Idaho's is H.J.R. 2, South Carolina's is Amendment 1, Tennessee's is Amendment 1, South Dakota's is Amendment C and Virginia's is Ballot Question 1. Wisconsin's amendment is labeled differently by jurisdiction, although it's known in most places as the Question 1 or S.J.R. 53. A "yes" vote on all the amendments is a vote for natural, traditional marriage and a vote against "gay marriage."


For more information about the national debate over "gay marriage," visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage