MARRIAGE DIGEST: Wash. Gov.'s race could impact marriage debate; Conn. considers civil unions; Ore. advocates concede

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Marriage Digest will not be published next week but will return Dec. 3.

OLYMPIA, Wash. (BP)--The outcome of a recount in the Washington state governor's race could have an impact on the battle there to legalize same-sex "marriage."

More than two weeks after the nation elected a president, the state still does not know for certain who its next governor will be. In the initial count completed Nov. 16, Republican Dino Rossi led Democrat Christine Gregoire by only 261 votes out of 2.8 million ballots cast. A recount has begun and is expected to be completed Nov. 24.

Democratic Gov. Gary Locke is completing his second and final term.

Social conservatives believe a Rossi administration could be helpful in the coming year, when the Washington state Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a same-sex "marriage" case and the state legislature is expected to consider a constitutional marriage amendment. As a state senator Rossi voted for the state Defense of Marriage Act, which bans same-sex "marriage" and was struck down by two lower courts. While Rossi wouldn't have any direct role in passing a marriage amendment, he could help shape public opinion.

Washington hasn't had a Republican governor in two decades.

"Rossi didn't campaign on it, but most people understood that his position was not only to view marriage as an institution between a man and a woman, but that he supported laws that back that up. That included a constitutional amendment defending those laws," Jeff Kemp, president of the pro-family group Families Northwest, told Baptist Press.

Even though Gregoire, the current state attorney general, opposes same-sex "marriage," her public comments on the state Defense of Marriage Act didn't satisfy social conservatives. The attorney general's office is responsible for defending the law in court.

A comment she made in March about homosexual relationships especially frustrated social conservatives. "While I do not believe that Washington state is ready to support gay marriage, I do believe we need to provide legal protection to same-sex couples," she said then, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Whatever happens in the governor's race, Gregoire will be replaced as attorney general by Republican Rob McKenna, who beat Deborah Senn in the A.G. race.

With Rossi as governor and McKenna as attorney general, conservatives would have two allies in their battle against same-sex "marriage" legalization. Democrats, though, will control both chambers of the legislature, which would have the role of passing a constitutional marriage amendment and sending it to voters. It would require the support of two-thirds of the House and Senate -- a tall task in the liberal-leaning state.

"Part of what governors do is public leadership, using the bully pulpit," Kemp said. "We really think [Rossi] would be helpful and effective in that regard -- framing the issue and keeping the public informed and giving guidance to the legislature. But it's really in the legislators' purview -- which is why people in the districts will need to talk to them."

The state Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in the case March 8.

"I'm quite concerned about how they might rule," Kemp said.

A poll by Wirthlin Worldwide released Nov. 17 showed that, when given an option, 57 percent of Washingtonians support the traditional definition of marriage, 41 percent prefer that marriage be defined as a "union between two loving adults regardless of their gender." The poll of 402 adults was conducted Oct. 6-9.

CIVIL UNIONS IN CONN.? -- Connecticut's legislature may pass a bill legalizing civil unions this year if some Democrats there have their way. If successful, it would be the first time a legislature acted on the subject without being forced to do so by a court. Vermont has civil unions and Massachusetts has same-sex "marriage," but both came via court orders.

"Connecticut may be the first state in the nation where the legislature cobbles something together," state Rep. Robert Godfrey told the Danbury News-Times. "I have yet to meet a colleague that says it will not happen. There will be a resolution this year."

Democrats control both chambers. Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell hasn't said where she stands on such a bill. Civil unions provide most of the legal benefits of marriage without using the term "marriage."

California, though, may beat Connecticut in the race. A bill legalizing same-sex "marriage" is expected to be introduced in the California legislature next year. It is not known whether California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, would sign it.

CONCESSION IN ORE. -- Supporters of same-sex "marriage" in Oregon are conceding that an amendment passed by voters prohibits the legalization of "gay marriage" there, the Associated Press reported. Now, though, they're pushing for the legalization of Vermont-type civil unions.

An amendment protecting the traditional definition of marriage, thus banning same-sex "marriage," passed by a margin of 57-43 percent Nov. 2.

"Marriage is the only road to full equality -- but providing most of the protections of marriage is better than having none of the protections. We're willing to accept that for the time being," David Fidanque, executive director of the Oregon chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, told the AP.

Pro-family groups, though, are asking that the marriage lawsuit be tossed, in light of the amendment's passage.

With the exception of nationwide races, Oregon was the site of the most stinging defeat for homosexual activists on Election Day. Earlier this year they had cheered as Multnomah County -- the state's most populous county -- issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples. A judge subsequently ordered the county to stop. But the county's action provided the impetus for a signature drive that placed the marriage amendment on the ballot. With the two sides in a legal and political race, homosexual activists filed suit, seeking the legalization of same-sex "marriage."

A previously scheduled hearing by the state Supreme Court was moved from November to December in light of the amendment's passage.

LAWSUIT IN KY. -- Having lost at the ballot box, liberal activists in Kentucky now hope to see a constitutional marriage amendment there struck down in court. The lawsuit is similar to one in Georgia and argues that the amendment was unconstitutional because it dealt with two subjects -- same-sex "marriage" and civil unions. The amendment, which passed 75-25, bans both.

"I think we're on solid legal ground,” an amendment supporter, state Sen. Vernie McGaha, said.

The Republican legislator said the lawsuit “is just a feeble attempt to subvert the will of the people of Kentucky," The Louisville Courier-Journal reported.

Most states provide amendment opponents a window of opportunity to sue before an amendment is enshrined into the constitution.


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

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