Setbacks and Wins in State Constitutional Battles
'We're proud to be standing alongside state groups to stop these discriminatory amendments,' said HRC President Cheryl Jacques.
WASHINGTON - The Minnesota and Alabama legislatures adjourned yesterday without passing discriminatory marriage-ban amendments to their state constitutions. However, the Human Rights Campaign noted, a constitutional amendment to deny marriage to same-sex couples in Missouri passed the Legislature May 14 during the final minutes of the legislative session.
"We're proud to be standing alongside state groups to stop these discriminatory amendments," said Human Rights Campaign President Cheryl Jacques. "The fight for equality isn't limited to inside Washington's beltway. It's in the backyard of every American."
A proposed amendment in Minnesota would have banned marriage for same-sex couples, as well as civil unions and domestic partnerships. OutFront Minnesota led the way in the state capitol, working with openly gay legislators to defeat the amendment. HRC worked with OutFront Minnesota on several efforts to defeat the legislation, including: sending HRC Action Alert e-mails, co-hosting a town hall on marriage issues, holding a joint press conference on discriminatory amendments and providing strategy assistance. HRC's Jacques also spoke at an OutFront Minnesota marriage rally in March.
"This is a great day for Minnesota," said Ann DeGroot, executive director of OutFront Minnesota. "The defeat of this constitutional amendment bill means that the possibility that discrimination could be enshrined in our state's most precious and fundamental document will not see the light of day this year."
Six discriminatory amendments were up for consideration in the Alabama Legislature. All died when the Legislature adjourned May 17 - including one that had passed the full Senate and a House committee. HRC worked closely with Equality Alabama to stop these amendments, including using the HRC Online Action Center to generate calls and e-mails to state legislators.
Unfortunately, a proposed amendment to deny marriage to same-sex couples in Missouri passed and will appear on the ballot in August or November of 2004. The Senate passed the measure Feb. 29, 2004, by a 26 to 6 vote. The House, in the last five minutes of the legislative session, passed the bill 124-25 on May 14. HRC will continue to work closely with equality advocates in the state to defeat the amendment on the ballot.
"We are appalled that so many legislators feel same-sex relationships have less value than opposite-sex relationships," said Jeff Wunrow, executive director of the statewide group PROMO. "However, we feel that Missouri will disagree and we look forward to talking to voters all the way to Election Day."
So far, five states will face constitutional anti-marriage amendment ballot measures this year - Georgia, Utah, Kentucky, Missouri and Mississippi. Ballot measures generally can accept unlimited contributions and right-wing, extremist organizations are expected to funnel millions of dollars into these campaigns in order to turn out the conservative, far-right vote. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Sadie Fields, executive director of the Christian Coalition of Georgia, expects to register 100,000 new voters because of the ballot measure in Georgia.
Amendments are being considered in the North Carolina and Louisiana legislatures and signatures are being gathered in the presidential battleground states of Michigan, Ohio and Oregon to put constitutional amendments on the November ballot.
"We must be prepared to turn out as many additional voters as our opponents," said HRC's National Field Director Seth Kilbourn. "HRC is prepared to do that with an aggressive voter identification and contact program in this campaign year. Turning out the friends and family of every GLBT American will be crucial if we are to prevail in these ballot measures and counter the mobilization of the far-right in these battleground states."
The Human Rights Campaign is the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender political organization with members throughout the country. It effectively lobbies Congress, provides campaign support and educates the public to ensure that LGBT Americans can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.