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Marriage ban momentum: will 2005 become a repeat of last year's frenzy of state constitutional amendments?

Hoping to capitalize on the momentum from voters' passage last year of 13 state constitutional bans on same-sex marriage, antigay factious across the nation are gearing up for another big go-round in 2005. "It's going to be a tough slog for the next four or five years," said Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. "We're going to be on the defensive."

According to Foreman, 10 states are currently at "significant risk" of having anti-gay marriage amendments placed before voters in 2005 or 2006: Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. Another five to 10 states may float ballot measures in 2007 and 2008.

In Tennessee a proposed amendment has already passed the legislature, but as in many states, it must be passed by two consecutive sessions before it can go before voters. Christopher Sanders, public relations cochair of the Tennessee Equality Project, said he is trying to raise enough money to hire a lobbyist to stop the proposal in the legislature. "If the proposed amendment gets on the ballot, it will take much more money to fight," he said.

A proposed constitutional amendment was approved by the Massachusetts legislature shortly before same-sex marriage became legal there last year, and it is headed this spring for a second legislative vote; it must pass in order to be put on a ballot in 2006. "There are too many factors to predict an outcome," said Sue Hyde of the Massachusetts office of NGLTF, but "we must preserve this right in Massachusetts if it is to be won in any other state."

Chris Ott, executive director of Action Wisconsin, which is battling a proposed state amendment, said he is encouraged by the level of help he's received. "We've gotten a lot of great support from national organizations like HRC, Freedom to Marry, and the Task Force," he said. "Allies in other states like Oregon have also been really helpful in sharing know-how from their campaigns."

Even though last year saw no victories against constitutional marriage bans, the continued fight is important, Foreman said. "Good things can come out of these campaigns even if we lose," he said, noting that Utah activists last year built a strong grassroots infrastructure that will serve them well in the future. "People would have thought Utah was the least likely place to make progress, but they did," he said.
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Title Annotation:At Issue
Author:VanDeCarr, Paul
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 15, 2005
Words:400
Previous Article:Rants & raves.
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