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Louisiana marriage amendment faces easy passage, more challenges

Louisiana marriage amendment faces easy passage, more challenges

If Louisiana voters approve a constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriage, it will mark the end of a political campaign and the beginning of round 2 in what could be a long court battle. Proponents of the amendment predict easy victory in the September 18 vote, noting that similar amendments in other states have passed with as much as 70% voter approval. Gay rights advocates are not giving up, however. Forum for Equality, the civil rights group that fought unsuccessfully to keep the measure off the ballot, is in the middle of a grassroots campaign stressing its contention that the amendment does far more than outlaw same-sex marriage and that it could endanger numerous rights now enjoyed by unmarried gay and straight couples. On the other side is Louisiana Family Forum, conducting a campaign that includes some media buys, meetings with ministers around the state, mailings, and other efforts carrying the message that the measure is simply, in the words of spokesman Gene Mills, "a marriage affirmation amendment." While Forum for Equality won't concede the likelihood of defeat, the group is preparing for another court fight. "The Forum for Equality membership has already authorized a lawsuit to be filed in the event that this were to pass," said attorney Randy Evans. He said no decision had been made on whether it would be filed in state or federal court. There had already been a portent of lawsuits to come when Forum for Equality lost its effort to knock the proposed amendment off the ballot. Upholding appeals court rulings that challenges to the election are premature before anyone votes, the state supreme court did not rule on other substantive issues in the case. However, Chief Justice Pascal Calogero wrote that the court may yet have to address a postelection challenge. By ruling that the challenges were premature, the court sidestepped the issue of whether the legislature illegally drafted the amendment by giving it more than one purpose--banning civil unions as well as gay marriage. That and a host of other issues bearing on what the amendment will or won't do play a part in both sides' preelection efforts and will figure in court fights if the amendment passes.

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