Compiled by Dawn Wolfe
Arkansas: The state Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments Sept. 23, less than six weeks before the Nov. 2 general election, in a petition to knock a proposed constitutional amendment banning equal marriage rights from the ballot. The Arkansas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union petitioned the Supreme Court on Aug. 26 to throw the Arkansas Marriage Amendment off the November ballot. The ACLU contends the proposal is vague and does not adequately inform voters of its potentially far-ranging effects on civil unions, single people and heterosexual married couples.
Georgia: A lawsuit aimed at keeping a proposed constitutional ban on marriages for same-sex couples off the Nov. 2 election ballot went before a judge Sept. 24 who postponed a ruling until next week but expressed skepticism the court could intervene. The Georgia challenge, filed on behalf of a handful of plaintiffs by the ACLU and other attorneys, contends the proposed amendment is legally faulty because it contains more than one subject matter, violating the rules for adopting constitutional amendments.
Louisiana: The state attorney general said he would investigate election problems in New Orleans on Saturday that closed 59 precincts because voting machines were not delivered to polling places. The election problems could lead to challenges of election results, particularly of the proposed equal marriage ban.
New Jersey: Lambda Legal officials said Sept. 21 they would file papers that seek a ruling from the state’s highest court on a lawsuit brought on behalf of seven same-sex couples. A Superior Court judge ruled last fall against legalizing equal marriage rights. The Attorney General’s Office has defended the state’s ban on equal marriage, saying that New Jersey’s Constitution does not permit gay unions and that the power to change the definition of marriage rests with the Legislature, not the courts.
On Sept. 23 the Oklahoma Supreme Court refused to assume jurisdiction in a legal challenge filed by the American Civil Liberties Union to the marriage ban that is scheduled for the Nov. 2 general election ballot. That means State Question 711, which would put a marriage ban in the Oklahoma Constitution, will remain on the ballot.
Ohio: A state appeals court refused a request to throw out petitions to put a proposed constitutional ban on equal marriage rights in a Sept. 20 decision. The amendment seeks to bar any type of civil unions or the legal privileges of marriage to any unmarried couple. Opponents of the ban say their legal challenges are over and they expect the secretary of state to approve petitions to place the issue on the ballot.
Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman warned that passage of Issue 1 would harm the state’s already weak economy by sending the message that Ohio is an intolerant place to do business. He pointed to Cincinnati, the country’s only major city that bans the passage of laws protecting gays and lesbians, as an example. The 10-year-old ban has cost Cincinnati at least $46 million in potential convention business. More than a dozen companies that had considered Cincinnati, or already booked its convention center, pointed to the anti-gay measure as the reason for going elsewhere.
Oregon: Basic Rights Oregon, the group opposing a constitutional ban on marriage for same-sex couples, say their primary opponents, the Defense of Marriage Coalition, is running a misleading TV ad that states, “Measure 36 doesn’t change the constitution; it only clarifies what has always been. Marriage is between one man and one woman.” In fact, Measure 36 would amend the Oregon Constitution, to legally recognize marriage only between a man and a woman.
Washington: State residents who are foes of equal marriage rights have announced a drive to add a ban to the state constitution. The newly formed Allies for Marriage and Children, which includes social conservatives, community activists and some religious leaders, said Sept. 21 it is responding to two recent court rulings that invalidated the state’s Defense of Marriage Act. A state constitutional amendment must originate in the Legislature, with a two-thirds vote in both chambers, followed by a statewide public vote.
Nova Scotia, Canada: Nova Scotia became the sixth Canadian province or territory to allow marriages for same-sex couples when the provincial Supreme Court ruled Sept. 24 that banning such unions was unconstitutional. British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and the Yukon allow marriages for same-sex couples. Saskatchewan’s high court is expected to rule on the issue next week weeks. Prime Minister Paul Martin’s Liberal government has vowed to make it legal across Canada after the country’s Supreme Court rules on the issue. It begins reviewing the matter next month.