A voter-approved amendment to the Louisiana state constitution banning same-sex marriage will be debated Wednesday by the state supreme court. But the debate will center on a tricky legal question--and not the marriage issue itself.
Overwhelmingly approved by 78% of the voters in September, the amendment was struck down in October by a judge in Baton Rouge who said the proposition's structure violated a constitutional requirement that an amendment deal with only one issue. Besides banning same-sex marriages, state district judge William Morvant said, the amendment prevents the state from recognizing any legal status for common-law relationships, domestic partnerships, and civil unions involving either gay or heterosexual couples.
Supporters of the amendment have said those issues are simply subsets of the main issue--defining marriage as only the union of a man and woman, which is currently contained in state law.
Backers said the amendment is needed to keep the legislature--or Louisiana courts--from authorizing same-sex marriage, such as what occurred in Massachusetts when that state's high court, in November 2003, legalized such unions.
The Louisiana amendment was challenged by gay activist groups on several grounds--including the contention that it covered multiple issues--before the balloting, but courts ruled that suits would have to wait until after the referendum.