Marriage and Politics - Same Sex vs. Traditional Husband and Wife

A Majority of US states have adopted laws known as "Defense of Marriage: Acts, which define marriage as the union between a man and a woman. Gay rights advocates have challenged these slaws in state courts across the country, arguing that they violate equal- protection guarantees in state constitutions. In November of 2003, these arguments swayed the highest court in Massachusetts, which became the first US state where gays could legally wed.

Fearing similar rulings from other state courts, opponents of gay marriage have pushed states to incorporate same-sex marriage bans into their constitutions. In 2004, 12 states passed such amendments. Seven more, including VA followed suite in 2006.

This "same sex marriage" issue has become a real battle especially at the ballot box. Changing the constitution may seem like overkill, since Virginia already has a law defining marriage as between a man and a woman. But "it's absolutely necessary," says State Sen. Steve Newman, a Republican. Newman believes that it is only a matter of time before a couple will move from Massachusetts or Vermont, where same-sex unions are legal, and demand that their union be recognized in Virginia. And while a state court might not recognize such a union, a federal court easily could.

"We're speaking directly to the federal courts, and saying, 'States have a right to define what marriage is for each individual state'," he says. "And so when someone comes to Virginia with a marriage license from that state, it is important that Virginia acts and puts this within their constitution, where there is the most protection."

In fact, 19 other states have already done the same political calculus and amended their constitutions. Aside from Virginia, nine others could do the same this year. Other states include South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Alabama, Wisconsin, Arizona, Illinois, Idaho and Colorado. This delights Republicans, who have only to look back to the 2004 election, when marriage amendments swept across the country from Oregon to Kentucky.

Kareem Crayton, who teaches law and political science at the University of Southern California, says the marriage amendments stoked up the culture wars, impassioned the Christian conservative base... and may have played a major role in re-electing President Bush, especially in battleground states like Ohio.

"I think it had an effect on the intensity that voters had for showing up," he says. "So in Ohio, for example, even though the polling lines were extremely long, voters were more likely to stay out in the rain and wait for their time to vote because they thought this was a major issue that they just couldn't just let pass."

This is a real fight on both sides. Gay activists realize that they have a long road ahead to try to accomplish their goal of getting states to accept same sex marriages as the norm or "law of the land." Your Christian conservatives or course are looking ahead as well and doing all they can to get gay marriage banned, state by state.
----Taken from NPR.org 2/17/2007

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