Marriage battles reach critical point in key states

BY admin

July 02 2004 12:00 AM ET

Voters in Arkansas, Michigan, and Oregon are one step closer to deciding if their states will institute constitutional bans on gay marriage. Conservative groups say they are having success in obtaining enough petition signatures to put the issue on November ballots. So far, six states have proposed such bans.

In Arkansas, supporters of a proposed state constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriages and civil unions submitted their signed petitions to the secretary of state's office on Thursday. The antigay Arkansas Marriage Amendment Committee said they collected 200,693 signatures; 80,570 signatures of registered voters are needed to get the measure on the November 2 ballot. The proposed amendment defines marriage strictly as a union between a man and a woman. The secretary of state's office will count the signatures and certify the number that are from registered voters.

In Michigan, the deadline for groups to file antigay ballot initiative petitions with state election officials is Monday. They must have at least 317,757 valid signatures, and opponents of gay marriage hope to file 400,000 petition signatures. If state election officials approve the petitions, voters will get to decide whether to change the state constitution to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

Supporters of same-sex marriage concede the measure likely will be on the ballot and are preparing a campaign to defeat it, emphasizing that it would lead to a ban on domestic-partner benefits at public institutions. "It's not just about marriage," said Wendy Howell, campaign manager of Coalition for a Fair Michigan. "It would have widespread ramifications."

In Oregon, opponents of gay marriage have submitted 244,000 signatures to ban same-sex unions--the the most ever for a single ballot measure. The number far surpasses the 100,840 valid signatures required to get the measure on the ballot, reported the Salem Statesman-Journal. The newspaper reported that the measure would invalidate the 3,022 marriage licenses issued in Multnomah County between March 3 and April 20. "We find frightening the prospect of writing discrimination into the Oregon constitution," Roey Thorpe, executive director of Basic Rights Oregon, told the Statesman-Journal.

The newspaper also reported that Oregon voters rejected antigay ballot measures in 1992, 1994, and 2000. They approved a 1988 measure overturning an executive order banning discrimination against state employees based on sexual orientation, but the courts threw out that measure in 1992.

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