Louisiana high court reinstates gay marriage amendment


Published: Thursday, January 20, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 19, 2005 at 10:24 p.m.
NEW ORLEANS - The Louisiana Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously reinstated an anti-gay marriage amendment to the state constitution that was overwhelmingly approved by the voters in September.
The high court reversed a ruling by a state district judge, who struck down the "defense of marriage" amendment in October on the grounds that the measure dealt with more than one subject, in violation of the Louisiana Constitution.
But the Supreme Court said: "Each provision of the amendment is germane to the single object of defense of marriage."
The amendment was put on the ballot by the Legislature and approved by 78 percent of the voters. Eleven other states adopted similar amendments in the fall elections.
"We're obviously delighted," said Michael Johnson, an attorney for Alliance Defense Fund, which argued for the amendment's legality.
Gay rights activist and state legislative candidate Chris Daigle called the ruling an outrage, saying it does nothing to defend marriage.
"High divorce rates, high adultery rates, poverty, lack of education, parents having to hold more than one job, those are the real threats to marriage," he said.
But other opponents of the amendment said they were pleased that the court noted that it would not affect the rights of unmarried couples, gay or heterosexual.
In striking down the amendment, Judge William Morvant of Baton Rouge had ruled that it also would prevent the state from recognizing common-law relationships, domestic partnerships and civil unions between both gay and heterosexual couples.
At issue was a provision that stated: "A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be recognized."
But the high court said the amendment would not stop unmarried couples from buying property together, making medical decisions for each other, or leaving their estates to one another.
Randy Evans, an attorney for the gay rights group Forum for Equality, called the high court's ruling "a decision worthy of Solomon."
Legislative backers of the amendment said that although gay marriages were already banned by state law, the amendment was needed to ensure that courts would not authorize such marriages, as happened in Massachusetts.
"This makes it clear that marriage will remain a sacred union between a man and a woman, and removes the ability of activist judges from changing that definition," Republican state Rep. Steve Scalise said.

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