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The Attack on Marriage is real

The Attack on Marriage is real.


 


For several years, opponents of the marriage amendment have defended their position by saying that "same-sex marriage is already illegal in Minnesota; we don't need an amendment."  To hear them talk one would think marriage is safe and secure behind a bulwark of laws and judicial decisions.  This kind of ignorance is reminiscent of the WWII French generals who insisted that the Maginot Line would protect France from German attack.  History shows that the Germans agreed – and went around it.  France surrendered in a matter of weeks.  Soon we'll be hearing "peace in our time," no doubt.


 


It's the Constitution Stupid


 


True, current statues prohibit same-sex marriage in Minnesota.  But well funded groups like Lambda Legal of New York plan to circumvent these laws and attack marriage via unprotected state constitutions.  Currently the state Supreme Courts in New Jersey, New York and WashingtonState have heard Lambda Legal lawsuits in which same-sex couples argue that their state constitutions allow them the right to marry.  Similar lawsuits are working their way through the court systems in California, Connecticut, Iowa and Maryland. (See sidebar)  If one or more of these courts find that their constitutions provide for same-sex marriage, Minnesotans may find themselves fighting a modern legal battle with antiquated laws.


 


Consequently, the only way to keep marriage safe in Minnesota is via an amendment to the state constitution that defines marriage as between one man and one woman.  It's that simple.


 


Washington State - 15 Months and no ruling


 


In Washington, a Lambda Legal lawsuit has gone 15 months without a ruling.  Nineteen gay and lesbian couples have challenged the constitutionality of Washington's DOMA law which defines marriage as between one man and one woman.  The threat is serious.  Two lower court judges in two separate cases have ruled that marriage is a fundamental right that may not be denied same-sex couples.  The case is extremely important as it will be analyzed and dissected all over the country.  If DOMA is overturned it could have a domino affect on decisions in New Jersey, New York and several others.


 


Many believe the Washington ruling is being delayed for political reasons; preferring to withhold the decision until after the November elections.  This line of reasoning suggests the ruling may not bode well for DOMA.  Cheryl Hasking, executive director of Washington based, Allies for Marriage and Children, a statewide organization formed to campaign around preserving DOMA, believes the delay is a clear signal of the court's leaning.  "The decision to uphold (DOMA) would be easier than one to strike it down,' she said.


 


Should WashingtonState strike down DOMA it would have a chilling affect on the nation and Minnesota.  A defeat of DOMA would embolden local activists to mount a challenge in Minnesota.  More troubling is that Washington would become the first state to extend same-sex marriage to those who live outside the state.  It's expected that if another state allowed same-sex marriages, gay and lesbian couples would flock there to exchange vows, then return to their home state to mount legal challenges to have their marriages recognized.  Thanks to the DFL controlled senate, these activists would have two years to test the Minnesota constitution before voters would get another chance to vote.


 


New York decision could come in July.


 


New YorkState's Court of Appeals could decide as soon as July 1 whether to legalize same-sex marriage.  Even the most experienced court observers are having trouble handicapping the decision as the court is split between three liberal and three conservative appointees.  Judge Albert Rosenblatt recused himself at the last minute, allegedly because his daughter, an attorney had worked on a case in favor of gay marriage.


 


Like in Washington State, New York heard arguments on both sides of the Baker v. Nelson decision which denied two Minnesota men a marriage license in 1971.  The ACLU appealed to the U. S. Supreme Court who refused to hear the case, stating that it lacked sufficient constitutional question.


 


Although DFL amendment opponents tout Baker as reason to believe marriage is protected in Minnesota, Lambda Legal and ACLU attorneys argued that a great deal has changed since Baker.  The US Supreme Court has since made several decisions including legalizing sodomy, defining marriage a fundamental right


 


Momentum


 


The Massachusetts ruling in favor of same-sex marriage was as a major factor in the 11 states that passed constitutional amendments in 2004.  With the recent victory in Alabama, the number of states that have passed a marriage amendment has reached 20.  At least seven more states will put the measure before the voters in November.


 


Here in Minnesota, a second state to legalize gay marriage could ultimately be more significant than Massachusetts.  Another ruling in favor of genderless marriage could alert Minnesotans and provide the motivation to push the marriage amendment through the state legislature.


 


The truth is "We don't need an amendment" is the worst kind of political spin.  It is a simplistic message designed to misdirect the voter and maintain political power – while leaving marriage exposed to organized, well funded national groups like Lambda Legal and the ACLU.