Thursday, January 14, 2010

As Perry plaintiffs challenge same-sex marriage bans, marriage equality opponents hope to bring amendment bans to WV, IA, NH and IN voters

Can voters deprive same-sex couples of the right to marry, or prevent them from exercising it? Even as the Perry plaintiffs seek to protect this right from campaigns like Yes on 8 and Yes on 1, marriage-equality opponents hope to extend perceived successes in those campaigns to other states.

The D.C. Superior Court just upheld the D.C Elections Board's decision to disqualify a proposed Marriage Initiative. But that ruling is likely to redouble the efforts of "let us vote" campaigns in other states, which Family Policy Councils appear to coordinate. These states include West Virginia, Iowa, New Hampshire, and Indiana. Let's consider two of these states - West Virgninia and Iowa.

Last year in July, a specially appointed committee of the West Virginia legislature heard testimony on whether the legislature should adopt a "marriage protection" amendment (MPA) to the state constitution. MPA proponents in West Virginia want the state legislature to approve an MPA for voter adoption. They believe that they must prevent the risk of a ruling, like In re Marriage Cases, 43 Cal.4th 757 (Cal. 2008), that would invalidate the state DOMA. ADF Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence was one of the witnesses at the hearing. (Here is his testimony.) He was counsel for Prop. 22 plaintiffs in the Marriage Cases litigation, and is now counsel for the Prop. 8 proponents in the Perry case.

Attorney Jeremy Dys was another hearing witness. He is Executive Director of the Family Policy Council of West Virginia. In a January 12th press release, he faults the state legislature for having "failed to advance a reason against letting the people of West Virginia vote on the definition of marriage."

Meanwhile, "Let Us Vote" in Iowa has started lobbying that state's legislature to approve an MPA that would overturn Varnum v. Brien, 763 N.W.2d 862 (Iowa 2009). The Globe Gazette reports that today 18 state Senators introduced an expected MPA, even as one of its sponsors concedes that it has no prospect of a debate in the current legislative session. (In fact, S.J.R. 2001 bans not only same-sex marriage, but any other "legal union.") One Iowa has also issued a press release about its latest legislative adovocacy for marriage equality: "One Iowa volunteers and staff delivered more than 18,000 postcards to state legislators from constituents asking them to reject a constitutional amendment that would deny gay and lesbian couples the freedom to marry." (I don't find it posted yet on the organization's website.)

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