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PAR Offers Guide to Proposed Marriage Amendment

PAR Offers Guide to Proposed Marriage Amendment

Posted: 08/27/2004

The proposed marriage amendment is closely examined in a report released today by the Public Affairs Research Council (PAR). PAR’s “Guide to the Constitutional Amendment on the Defense of Marriage Act” provides an analysis of the legal and policy implications of the amendment from both a state and national perspective. It also summarizes arguments for and against the amendment, including the potential impact on domestic partnership benefits, economic development, the adequacy of current law against the backdrop of litigation outside the state, children, religious beliefs, constitutional rights and the possibility of more radical changes to marriage. The marriage amendment is the only proposal to appear on the September 18 ballot. Four other amendments are scheduled for the November 2 election.

“The ‘Guide’ is designed to help voters understand the multitude of important issues that hinge on how marriage is defined and how domestic arrangements are treated under the law,” said Jim Brandt, president of PAR.

The amendment would add a provision to the constitution that would:

Define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
Require state officials and courts to recognize only marriages of one man and one woman.
Prohibit the state from recognizing any legal status that is identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals.
Prohibit state public officials and courts from recognizing a marriage, which is not the union of one man and one woman, contracted in any other jurisdiction.
The proposal follows current state law in many respects, defining marriage as between a man and a woman and prohibiting the recognition of same-sex marriage. However, the proposal also bans civil unions. Legal experts are split as to the amendment’s effect, if any, on the validity of certain contracts between unmarried opposite-sex and same-sex partners.

Controversy has intensified with the filing of three lawsuits seeking to block the September vote on the amendment. State district courts in New Orleans and Baton Rouge issued contradictory rulings, but two appellate courts have ruled that the amendment will appear on the September ballot. The Supreme Court is likely to weigh in on this issue very soon. Additional lawsuits are likely to be filed should the amendment pass.

As of August 2004, 39 states have statutes similar to the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), enacted in 1996, that limits marriage to one man and one woman and allows states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages. A few of the DOMA states go further by refusing to recognize civil unions. Three other states had already defined marriage by statute as the union of a man and a woman prior to 1996.

Should the amendment pass, Louisiana would join four states that have defined marriage in their constitutions as the union of a man and a woman. A fifth state reserves to the legislature the right to define marriage. Voters in twelve states, including Louisiana, will vote on similar proposals this year. Another five states will likely vote on this issue within the next two years. Fifteen state legislatures considered but did not pass constitutional amendments. (Most of these states already have DOMA statutes.)

Marriage has been the subject of intense scrutiny and debate in the nation’s legislatures and courts for well over a decade. “Although Louisiana would be the fifth state to define marriage in its constitution should the amendment pass, marriage will be the subject of continuing debate, legislation and litigation in this state and others,” said Brandt. “Congress and the federal courts may also play a critical role in resolving issues from a growing patchwork of state and federal marriage laws.”

PAR will publish a separate guide in late September on the other four proposals set for the November 2 ballot.
The remaining four proposed amendments address:

the right to hunt and fish;
homestead exemption modifications;
veterans’ preference for public employment; and,
a new agricultural and seafood fund.
PAR members will receive a free copy of the “Guide to the Constitutional Amendment on the Defense of Marriage Act.” Copies of the “Guide” are available for $3.00 each by writing PAR at P.O. Box 14776, Baton Rouge, LA 70898-4776, calling (225) 926-8414 or e-mailing requests to staff@la-par.org. Special pricing is available for bulk orders. The “Guide” may also be accessed on PAR’s Web Site at: www.la-par.org.

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