Following the March 3 U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing, the House Judiciary Committee announced that it will hold hearings in the next few months regarding the issue of marriage for same-sex couples and the proposed anti-gay Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA). The first hearing, scheduled for March 30, will focus on the Constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
At the Senate hearing, Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO) and Sen. Wayne Allard (R-CO) introduced the FMA, which, aside from denying the rights of loving, committed same sex couples to marry would also deny all the “legal incidents” of marriage to any unmarried couple, including all unmarried couples. While proponents of the measure claim that state legislatures could still recognize same-sex relationships through civil unions or domestic partnerships, the ACLU and other organizations stated that the broad language of the amendment would deny marriage rights for any other than those in opposite sex marriages.
Meanwhile, Vice President Dick Cheney wants LGBT activists to leave his daughter, Mary Cheney, out of the debate about marriage for same-sex couples, 365Gay.com reported March 8. He called it unfair. “One of the most unpleasant aspects of this business is the extent of which private lives are intruded upon when these kinds of issues come up,Ó he said in a previous interview. ÒI really have always considered my private Ñ my daughtersÕ lives private and I think thatÕs the way it ought to remain.”
Phoenix-area heterosexual couples who plan to marry must now appear in person to obtain a marriage license because officials halted a mail-in program amid the controversy over same-sex marriages. The change was made March 5 after Maricopa County officials received a mail-in request for a license that suggested the couple could be of the same sex. Arizona law outlaws same-sex marriages. Arizona law mandates that a marriage license be issued only to a male and a female. It was changed to specify gender in 1975 after two Phoenix men were granted a marriage license, which was later revoked.
Lawyers for San Francisco filed legal briefs March 5 and answered efforts to invalidate thousands of same-sex marriages by telling the state Supreme Court that nothing in California’s constitution requires local officials to obey laws they believe are unconstitutional.
The Kansas House backed a proposed amendment banning gay marriages and benefits that associate marriage to other relationships. The 125-member House adopted the amendment March 5 on an 88-36 vote, giving it just four votes above the required minimum. The measure must receive 27 votes in the 40-member Senate to go on the Nov. 2 ballot.
The Idaho Senate failed to bring a proposed amendment to ban gay marriages out of committee, likely ending its chances of going to voters this November. The Senate vote not to bring it out of committee upheld last week’s decision by the State Affairs Committee. That body last week voted 5-4 not to consider the amendment, even after the proposition overwhelmingly passed the House in mid-February. A state law banning gay marriage passed in 1996.
Cook County clerk David Orr said he supports gay marriage but won’t issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. Orr said state laws bar gay couples from getting married, though he thinks that law is unconstitutional and discriminatory. But he says can’t go against it without widespread political and legal support. Orr became a focus of the gay marriage debate after Chicago Mayor Richard Daley said he supported the idea, but had no authority to issue marriage licenses.
On Wednesday March 6, Indiana House Republicans admitted defeat, bringing to an end their boycott of proceedings that had lasted a week and a half, in a last-ditch effort to ban equal marriage rights for same-sex couples with a constitutional amendment.
House Speaker B. Patrick Bauer – backed by the Democratic majority in the house – would not allow any debate on same-sex marriage, calling it a non-issue, and insisting that the legislature needed to deal with more pressing priorities.
Two anti-gay marriage bills were killed March 5 by the House Judiciary Committee, probably ending any chance opponents of same-sex marriages have of passing a bill during the 2004 General Assembly session. Both bills were killed on close votes after only brief debate in the committee. The official vote was not announced by the committee. One bill sought to strengthen the state’s DOMA law, while the second was a proposed amendment to the state constitution.
Town clerks say they are still waiting for legal guidance from either the attorney general or the governor on whether they can issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples who come to Massachusetts from out-of-state.
A 1913 law forbids town clerks from issuing marriage licenses “if such marriage would be void if contracted” in the couple’s home state.
Marriage licenses started being issued to same-sex couples in Asbury Park, New Jersey on Monday, March 8. In a statement Michael Adams of Lamda Legal said, “It’s been almost two years since Lambda Legal filed its lawsuit to allow New Jersey’s lesbian and gay couples to marry. Our lawsuit, now on appeal, is at an advanced stage in the legal process, far ahead of where any lawsuit would be were it filed now. By the end of this year or by some time next year, we should know whether the New Jersey Supreme Court will allow lesbian and gay couples to marry, and we remain very hopeful.”
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said same-sex couples deserve the same rights in civil unions that straight couples enjoy in marriage, but he will continue to enforce New York state’s ban on gay marriage. Bloomberg said in an interview that he goes “back-and-forth” on whether same-sex marriages should be allowed, but believes these couples deserve equality.
The mayor of New Paltz, north of New York City, performed 25 same-sex ceremonies a week ago. Mayor Jason West faces 19 criminal counts and could face jail time, but agreed to abide by a ruling that temporarily barred him from performing more same-sex marriages.
A religious rights law firm went to court to bar gay marriages in New York and said it will try to remove West from office. Meanwhile, Lambda Legal filed suit Friday in state court seeking the right for same-sex couples to become legally wed.
At least 100 gay couples lined up in Portland as Multnomah County handed out licenses for a second day March 4. Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski has warned the marriages may not be legal and requested a legal opinion from Oregon’s attorney general. A conservative coalition sued to block the marriages two days after officials sanctioned the practice and issued more than 700 licenses.
Utah Voters To Decide On Gay Marriage
(Salt Lake City, Utah)Ê The Utah House Thursday night passed legislation to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage. The measure has already been approved in the Senate, and now goes to the voters in November.
Mayor Greg Nickels announced Sunday, March 7 that he would sign an executive order March 8 that will require all city departments to grant city employees in same-sex marriages who tied the knot out of state the same rights heterosexual married couples enjoy. A city ordinance Nickels has proposed he would send to the City Council that same day would extend that recognition to all Seattle residents with marriage licenses, regardless of their sexual orientation.
Meanwhile, Lambda Legal and the Northwest Women’s Law Center filed a lawsuit March 8 in state court in Seattle seeking the right to marry for same-sex couples in Washington State. The case was brought on behalf of six same-sex couples who were denied marriage licenses Monday, March 8 at the King County Clerk’s office. The case is the first of its kind to be filed in Washington since the Massachusetts high court ruled that same-sex couples are entitled to full marriage under that state’s Constitution.
Pat Link and Sheila Chambers, a lesbian couple, filed suit March 5 asking the West Virginia’s Supreme Court to force the Kanawha County Clerk’s Office to start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Link and Chambers have been together for 23 years. The couple was married in Canada last year and celebrated a civil union in Vermont in 2001.
The Wisconsin Assembly on March 5 approved a proposed amendment to the state constitution to prohibit same-sex marriages or civil unions after an all-night debate. The proposal must pass both houses of the Legislature twice and be approved by voters before it can take effect. The Senate is expected to vote on the amendment this week.