Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Gays to battle amendment

Groups to rally forces against same-sex marriage ban

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Northern Kentucky gay rights activists concede they've lost the battle to keep a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages and denying legal recognition of civil unions off the statewide ballot.

So they are gearing up to win the war in November

After the amendment's passage by the Kentucky House on Monday, state senators passed the measure Tuesday night, meaning it will be before the voters on November's general election ballot.

"We certainly are disappointed over the apparent passage of this hateful and discriminatory law," said Dean Forster of Covington, co-chairman of the Northern Kentucky Fairness Alliance.

"Our campaign to defeat this measure has begun," Forster said Tuesday. "We are going to reach out to fair-minded Kentuckians and educate them that this hurts real families and keeps tax-paying citizens of this state from fully participating in marriage law and family law."

Forster predicted that the campaign to defeat the amendment would receive help from around the country.

"There will be an aggressive campaign to defeat this," he said. "We'll get help nationally ... because this is going to put Kentucky in the national spotlight."

Kenton County resident Frank Caliguri, who is also active in the Fairness Alliance, said the organization has already set an event in May to raise money for the campaign against the amendment.

"It will take a lot of time, effort, money and education to combat" the amendment, Caliguri said Tuesday. "I'm not happy about (the amendment). Northern Kentuckians are very tolerant. This is a diverse community, but I think this hurts that progress."

Caliguri said he believes "fear and lack of knowledge" motivated supporters of the amendment.

The measure would define marriage strictly as a union between a man and a woman. It also would deny legal recognition of civil unions.

The Senate passed the measure 33-5.

Ultimately, however, the Senate was expected to give its approval to the amendment, said Senate President Pro Tem Dick Roeding, R-Lakeside Park.

"This is something the people wanted, and we worked to give it to them," said Roeding, a staunch backer of the amendment.

Rep. J.R. Gray, D-Benton, said he was relieved the marriage amendment passed the House on Monday after weeks of political maneuvering that included several large, emotional rallies by supporters on both sides of the issue.

But even with General Assembly approval, the measure appears headed for a court fight.

"Get your lawyers because the battle has just begun," said Rep. Paul Bather, D-Louisville, who is leaving the General Assembly after this session and vowed to fight the amendment.

Even Gray, an ardent supporter of the amendment, predicted the next fight over the measure would be waged in court.

"It's an issue of such magnitude that I think there's some attorneys out there that would not be able to turn down an opportunity to contest it," Gray said.

Beth Wilson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, said it was premature to discuss whether her group would join any legal challenge against the measure.

"We certainly think this amendment is abhorrent, and we're going to look at all the possibilities," Wilson said.

Newport resident Carl Fox said the measure minimizes gays and lesbians as people in the eyes of state government.

"They ought to give me some of my tax money back since I'm not a full human being," said Fox, who is gay. "They always have to have somebody to beat up on. At one time it was the Irish (immigrants), then the Germans and it's always been the blacks. I just don't understand that thinking.

"I'm infuriated by this," Fox said. "There was a time in the '60s and especially in the south when there was a similar debate about recognizing interracial marriages between blacks and whites. We look back at that now and see how ridiculous that was. This is just as ridiculous."

Kentucky already has a law that prohibits same-sex marriages. Supporters of the amendment insist that writing the prohibition into the Constitution is the only way to cement the ban.

The Associated Press contributed.


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