Setbacks And Wins In State Constitutional Battles

The Minnesota and Alabama legislatures adjourned on May 17th
without passing discriminatory marriage-ban amendments to their state
constitutions. However, 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, 2004. 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."

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