Tuesday, July 14, 2009

WV legislative committee hearing on need for constitutional ban of gay marriage; ADF Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence compares gay marriage to swine flu

West Virginia Legislature's Joint Standing Committee on Judiciary held a hearing today pursuant to HCR 88, "to study the issue of a constitutional amendment to prohibit the state from recognizing same sex marriages." Here is the scheduled agenda of its Judiciary Subcommittee A:

Tuesday, July 14, 2009, 11:00 am - 1:00 pm

Location: Senate Judiciary - 208W

1. Call to Order

2. Roll Call

3. Approval of Minutes - January 11, 2009

4. Topic of Discussion - A study of whether the State should amend the State Constitution to prohibit the recognition of same sex marriages

A. Speakers

1. Professor Robert M. Bastress, John W. Fisher, II, Professor of Law - West Virginia University College of Law

2. Jeremiah Dys, Esq., President of the Family Policy Council

3. Seth DiStefano, American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia

4. Jordan Lorence, Esq., Senior Counsel, Alliance Defense Fund

5. Stephen G. Skinner, Esq., Fairness West Virginia

5. Other Business

6. Adjournment

07/20/09 AP (source: ADF Alliance Alert):

The prospects for a constitutional amendment hinge on whether enough lawmakers believe that the state's 2000 law on the subject is insufficient or could fall to a legal challenge.

07/15/09 The Register-Herald (source: ADF Alliance Alert):

ADF Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence compared same-sex marriage to swine flu as part of his justification for a "marriage protection" amendment:

But Jordan Lorence, senior counsel for the Alliance Defense, argued that West Virginians need to vote on the matter, and that it is wrong to assume DOMA will stand up in a court challenge.

“It’s like saying, we don’t need a vaccination for swine flu, because we haven’t had an epidemic yet,” he added.
Other reported statements include these:
DiStefano warned the amendment could eventually bite its own supporters.

“Everyone, at some point and time, is a member of a minority class, be it age, race, ethnicity, religion, disability, gender, sexual orientation, or otherwise,” he said.

“Making minority rights a function of popular opinion, as this resolution seeks to do, would endanger the rights of all persons because no one is a permanent member of any majority.”

Dys disagreed, saying, “Marriage is too valuable of an institution to West Virginia to subject it to attack when there is such a simple solution to its protection.”

07/15/09 AP (posted to The Times West Virginia; source: ADF Alliance Alert)

West Virginia University law professor Bob Bastress counted 122 attempts by voters to amend the state constitution ratified in 1872, with 73 of them succeeding. But he added that amendments to its Bill of Rights have been rare and have tended to expand rights, with the possible exception of prohibition in 1912.

07/14/09 Metro News (source: ADF Alliance Alert)

Alliance Defense Fund Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence was among those who testified. He says the legalization of same sex marriages in other states shows that a Constitutional Amendment is needed here.

But Seth DiStefano, Field Organizer with West Virginia's American Civil Liberties Union, calls the proposed Constitutional Amendment "redundant." "I think it's very unnecessary," DiStefano says. "I think it sends a very dangerous message that West Virginians aren't inclusive people and I think that, ultimately, the rights of minorities should not be a function of popular opinion, which is what this bill sets out to do."

07/14/09 AP (posted to Charleston Daily Mail; source: ADF Alliance Alert)

Council President Jeremy Dys said his group's polling found most voters define marriage as between a woman and a man. But opponents questioned whether public opinion should determine minority rights. A law professor [Robert M. Bastress] said the state constitution's Bill of Rights has rarely been amended.
07/14/09 ADF Alliance Alert:

ADF Attorney Jordan Lorence appeared on Hoppy Kercheval’s radio show to discuss a West Virginia constitutional marriage amendment.The mp3 is online here. It runs about nine minutes.

07/13/09 West Virginia Metro News:

A hearing on a possible Constitutional Amendment in West Virginia that would define marriage as between one man and one woman is scheduled for Tuesday at the State Capitol. Attorney Stephen Skinner with the group Fairness West Virginia says state law already does that adequately in the form of the Defense of Marriage Act. "Same sex marriage is already banned in West Virginia. There's no need to fiddle with our Constitution in order to do what has already been done," Skinner says. But Jeremy Dys with the Family Policy Council of West Virginia says West Virginians should vote on the issue. He says putting a Constitutional Amendment on the ballot would allow that to happen.
07/13/09 Alliance Defense Fund press release:

At tomorrow's hearing, Alliance Defense Fund Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence
will stress to the legislature that West Virginia voters should have the opportunity to vote on whether to amend the state constitution since the state’s Defense of Marriage Act is not sufficient to guard against legal attacks on marriage.

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