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Marriage amendment flap on fast track to Louisiana high court

Marriage amendment flap on fast track to Louisiana high court

Lower courts have the issue now, but the legal wrangling over a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages and civil unions is quickly heading toward the Louisiana supreme court, according to legal observers. Lawyers supporting gay rights have filed lawsuits in Baton Rouge and New Orleans to keep the proposed amendment off the upcoming ballot on September 18. "All of this will ultimately be decided by the Louisiana supreme court, as it should," said Randy Evans, a New Orleans lawyer who represents Forum for Equality and three other plaintiffs challenging the amendment. Last week New Orleans civil district court judge Christopher Bruno ruled that the vote cannot take place because it was not scheduled on a regular statewide election day. Nine parishes had no other elections planned on September 18. A hearing is scheduled Friday afternoon on whether to make his ruling permanent. Forum for Equality argues that the ban would violate the Louisiana constitution's guarantee of individuals' rights to enter into contracts and own property; they say it would invalidate contracts that gay and lesbian partners have drawn up to own houses together or to share responsibility for children. Backers of the amendment in the legislature say it does not go that far. Opponents of the amendment also say it illegally focuses on multiple objectives--not just outlawing gay marriages, but also civil unions and other legal relationships that bestow "the incidents of marriage." Backers of the amendment say it was drawn up correctly and will withstand court scrutiny. Evans expects the high court to take up the suits by the end of next week and rule before the election. "This is certainly on a fast track, as it should be. It is a very important matter," Evans said. Appeals are pending before two state appellate courts--the first circuit in Baton Rouge and the fourth circuit in New Orleans.

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