MARRIAGE DIGEST: Signature drive for Calif. marriage amend. fails; Cherokee lesbian couple wins court case

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (BP)--A pro-family coalition in California failed in late December to submit enough signatures to place a constitutional marriage amendment on the ballot, blaming divisions within the conservative movement and a November election that served as a distraction.

ProtectMarriage.com, which has the support of such groups as Focus on the Family and the Alliance Defense Fund, announced it had fallen short of the 600,000 signatures required to place the amendment on the June 2006 ballot. A spokesman told the Los Angeles Times that the group collected roughly 250,000 signatures.

A second conservative coalition, VoteYesMarriage.com, is pushing its own marriage amendment but has yet to begin gathering signatures. That group has the support of such organizations as the American Family Association and Liberty Counsel.

Conservatives disagree over the language an amendment should include. ProtectMarriage.com's amendment is only 22 words, but has drawn criticism from officials with VoteYesMarriage.com, who say the amendment would fail to ban the state's same-sex domestic partnerships law and would leave the door open to "gay marriages" in all but name. Officials with ProtectMarriage.com disagree with that assertion.

Both coalitions say they aren't giving up.

VoteYesMarriage.com -- whose amendment has been slowed down with legal problems -- said in a Dec. 26 statement that it wouldn't begin collecting signatures until it raises enough money to launch a successful petition drive.

ProtectMarriage.com said it would "reassess the prospects for making a second attempt" at placing the amendment on the ballot, either in November 2006 or beyond.

Kelly Boggs, a former pastor of a Southern Baptist church in McMinnville, Ore., said the division has hurt the marriage amendment movement in California. In 2004, Boggs helped lead a marriage amendment petition drive in Oregon that gathered more than 200,000 signatures in only five weeks. That amendment passed easily at the ballot.

Boggs, now editor of the Baptist Message newspaper in Louisiana, said the division in California is "very frustrating" to watch.

"Basically, you had two groups trying to gather signatures," he told Baptist Press. "Together, they may have gotten enough. It's a shame. We fought the same thing up in Oregon [divisions among conservatives). We really had some of those issues early on, but they went away, and we were able to get it done."

In its statement, ProtectMarriage.com blamed its failure on "the diversion of volunteers and funding toward measures" on the November 2005 ballot, "lack of donations caused by widespread charitable" giving to hurricane relief efforts and "confusion among volunteers created" by VoteYesMarriage.com's competing amendment.

The November election saw conservatives come together to support a parental notification constitutional amendment, which was defeated by a 53-47 percent margin.

Publicly, the two marriage amendment coalitions show no signs of coming together. VoteYesMarriage.com calls its amendment the state's only "true blue marriage amendment" proposal.

"In contrast to the ‘Protect Marriage’ initiative, our VoteYesMarriage.com campaign is moving steadily forward with confidence and momentum,” retired Calif. Assemblyman Larry Bowler, who supports the VoteYesMarriage.com amendment, said in a statement.

A ProtectMarriage.com statement said that "at this time" it would not "support any other marriage amendment."

"The coalition strongly believes that an initiative effort cannot be launched responsibly without first obtaining professionally conducted, statewide polling data showing that a majority of voters will approve the measure if it qualifies for the ballot," the statement read. "The ProtectMarriage.com amendment is the only proposal for which such research has been done."

The ProtectMarriage.com amendment states: “A marriage between a man and a woman is the only legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state.”

VoteYesMarriage.com's amendment reads: "Only marriage between one man and one woman is valid or recognized in California, whether contracted in this state or elsewhere. Neither the Legislature nor any court, government institution, government agency, initiative statute, local government, or government official shall abolish the civil institution of marriage between one man and one woman, or require private entities to offer or provide rights, incidents, or benefits of marriage to unmarried individuals, or bestow statutory rights, incidents, or employee benefits of marriage on unmarried individuals. Any public act, record, or judicial proceeding, from within this state or another jurisdiction, that violates this section is void and unenforceable."

Meanwhile, a lawsuit seeking the legalization of "gay marriage" in California is making its way through California state court. In addition, some California legislators continue to support a bill that would legalize "gay marriage." Such a bill passed both legislative chambers in 2005, but was vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"Marriage equality has now become a core value for the Democratic Party," Assemblyman Mark Leno, a Democrat and an open homosexual, was quoted as saying in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

SUIT CHALLENGES MASS. AMENDMENT -- Surprising hardly anyone, homosexual activists have filed a lawsuit in Massachusetts attempting to prevent a marriage amendment there from going forward. The amendment collected a state record 123,356 certified signatures and now must garner the votes of at least 25 percent of state legislators in two successive sessions. If it does that, it would go before voters in 2008.

The homosexual group Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders sued Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly Jan. 3, saying he should not have certified the amendment back in September. The state constitution prohibits citizens from reversing judicial decisions, GLAD argues.

Kris Mineau, president of the conservative Massachusetts Family Institute, said he is confident the amendment will be allowed to go forward.

"We would not have embarked on this endeavor if we did not have legal confidence in addition to political and theological confidence," Mineau told The Boston Globe. "This issue took in all of those realities, and our language meets all three criteria."

LESBIANS WIN CHEROKEE SUIT -- The Cherokee Nation's highest tribal court Dec. 22 rejected an attempt to invalidate a "marriage" between two lesbians, Reuters reported Jan. 4. The two women acquired a marriage license in 2004, but the Cherokee Nation's tribal council subsequently passed a law banning "gay marriage." The law, though, was not retroactive.

Several tribal council members sued, attempting to prevent the Cherokee Nation from recognizing the license. But the tribal court allowed the "marriage" to stand. The women were represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

The Cherokee Nation is situated in Oklahoma, which has a constitutional amendment explicitly banning "gay marriage." But tribal sovereignty allows the Cherokees to define marriage as they wish. Even though the lesbian couple won the case, the new Cherokee law prevents future "gay marriages."

CONSERVATIVES TAKE LEAD -- The Conservative Party has taken the lead in at least one poll as Canadians prepare for a national election Jan. 23. A Jan. 6 EKOS poll of 1,500 Canadians put the Conservatives at 35.4 percent, the Liberals at 31.8 percent, the New Democratic Party at 17.2 percent and the Bloc Quebecois at 11.2 percent, Reuters reported. A second poll, this one by Strategic Counsel, put the Conservatives and Liberals at 32 percent each.

The Liberals, led by Prime Minister Paul Martin, led the charge to legalize "gay marriage" last year. Conservatives have promised a vote to repeal the law if they gain power, although any such bill would face an uphill climb in the Liberal-dominated Senate. Senators are appointed by the prime minister.


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

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