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Marriage activity elsewhere

By |2004-02-26T09:00:00-05:00February 26th, 2004|Uncategorized|

By Bob Roehr

Shock waves continue to radiate from the celebration of gay and lesbian marriages in San Francisco.
In Sandoval County, New Mexico, the county clerk issued marriage licenses to 68 same-sex couples on February 20. Victoria Dunlap feared the state’s gender-neutral marriage law left her open to being sued for discrimination if she did not issue the license to same-sex couples. She asked the county attorney if state law prohibited her from issuing the licenses, and when he said no, she started issuing them.
Later that day the state Attorney General declared the licenses invalid and Dunlap stopped issuing them. Governor Bill Richardson, sometimes mentioned as a possible vice presidential nominee on the Democratic ticket, said he feels that marriage should be reserved for a man and a woman.
The recently married couples are discussing possible legal action.
Chicago gays and lesbians gained an unexpected ally when Democratic Mayor Richard Daley said he had “no problem” with gay marriage. He didn’t buy the argument that it undermines traditional marriage. “In the long run, we have to understand what they’re saying. They love each other just as much as anyone else.”
However, Daley said his hands were tied; marriage licenses are issued by the county, not the city. Illinois’ Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich has said, “I believe marriage is between a man and a woman and it’s sacred and it’s an institution that’s the core of our society.”
James Packard and Erwin Gomez told the Washington Post they are prepared to file joint tax returns, refile the title on their townhouse, and take whatever legal action is necessary to force the state to recognize their marriage.
They are discussing the issues with the Maryland chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The current state marriage law is gender neutral.
New York is girding itself as another potential battleground for gay marriage. That state’s marriage law is gender neutral and allows for same-sex marriage, according to a report of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York published in 1997 and reaffirmed in 2001.
Lawrence C. Moss, a Manhattan attorney and activist, pushed for the immediate issuance of marriage licenses to same sex couples, in an op-ed in the February 16 edition of the New York Daily News. He argued that not to do so violates the equal protection clause of the state constitution, a finding consistent with rulings by state courts in Hawaii, Alaska, and Massachusetts.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has waffled on the subject, indicating that he will not follow the lead of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and issue marriage licenses to gay couples. The community is holding a meeting on February 27 to discuss ways of putting pressure on Bloomberg to change his mind. It also is putting pressure on New York’s two Democratic Senators, Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer, to express their opposition to the antigay Federal Marriage Amendment.
On March 3, openly gay state Sen. Thomas K. Duane holds a public forum on the subject at the State Capitol in Albany.
The state’s Attorney General, Elliot Spitzer, declared his support for same sex-marriage during his 1998 campaign. He is a likely candidate for governor in 2006. But he has yet to comment on whether New York’s existing marriage law allows for same-sex weddings.
In Massachusetts, the maneuvering on amending the state constitution to prevent same-sex marriage is on virtual hiatus awaiting the next joint session of the legislature sitting as a constitutional convention, on March 11.
The latest poll by the Boston Globe shows opposition to gay marriage growing by 10 percentage points from an earlier poll taken in November. It is rather common for those numbers to change when issues play prominently in the news. The most recent survey of 400 adults shows 35% supporting legalizing gay marriage and 53% opposed.
Even more interesting is that when it comes to a solution, the public is just as divided as the legislators were, with none of the three options gaining a majority.
A constitutional amendment to restrict marriage to heterosexuals drew the support of 45% and opposition from 47%.
A “compromise” that would retain the word marriage for heterosexuals but require the creation of civil unions for same-sex couples drew 49% support and 36% opposition.
While a variation that would leave creation of civil unions up to the legislature drew only 30% support, with 55% rejecting it.
The survey also found that economic issues were a far more important priority for most Massachusetts voters. Only 7% called gay marriage one of their priorities.
A pair of same-sex couples from the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC, who married in San Francisco, are scheduled to testify before the Maryland legislature on February 25. The hearing is considering a bill by Baltimore Democrat Emmett Burns, Jr. that would render invalid same-sex marriages performed outside the state, as well as a proposed constitutional amendment by Cecil County Republican Charles Boutin that would limit marriage to a man and a woman.

About the Author:

BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.