Homosexuals Seek More Progress in Battle Over 'Marriage Equality'

July 7, 2008 - 7:03 PM

(CNSNews.com) - Two years after Vermont began allowing homosexual civil unions, the legal tug-of-war continues between homosexual groups seeking public validation of their domestic arrangements and conservative groups seeking to preserve the traditional concept of marriage.

The latest struggle is taking place in New Jersey, where a legal defense group representing seven homosexual couples has filed a lawsuit against the state, demanding "marriage equality."

"There are a lot of people there who are very upset over what's going on, but none of those people are on any of the courts in New Jersey," noted Bill Duncan, the director of the Marriage Law Project at the Catholic University of America.

If victorious, the legal complaint would make New Jersey the first state to allow civil marriages between two people of the same sex - a step farther than the one taken in Vermont, where homosexuals have been able to obtain civil unions, but not marriages, since July 1, 2000.

One other state, Massachusetts, has a same-sex marriage lawsuit pending, while same-sex couples in Montana and New York are suing for the benefits of marriage.

'Anything Less, Is Less Than Equal'

Civil unions grant homosexuals many of the same rights and privileges of married couples. However, a license is not one of them. And the seven New Jersey couples want nothing less than marriage with a license.

"Anything less is less than equal!" is the theme of a brochure created by Marriage Equality California and Lambda Legal, and titled, "Roadmap to Equality: The Freedom to Marry Educational Guide."

"Each plaintiff couple wants to say to each other and to the world that 'we're married' and thus instantly communicate the depth, commitment, and legal nature of their relationship," states the text of the legal complaint filed by the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, the organization backing the homosexual couples in the New Jersey case.

After being denied marriage licenses from New Jersey state officials, the couples are challenging what they call the state's "discrimination in civil marriage" and hope to "win the freedom to marry."

Conservative Reaction

Conservative groups like the Alliance for Marriage are defending the traditional legal status of marriage.

"Gays and lesbians have a right to live as they choose," said Matt Daniels, Executive Director of the Alliance for Marriage. "But they don't have a right to redefine marriage for our entire society."

Convinced that federal laws like the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) are insufficient, the Alliance for Marriage is advocating a constitutional amendment. The Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA) would officially define marriage as the union of one male with one female.

In response to the conservative campaign for heterosexual-only marriage, lesbian writer E.J. Graff asserted, "I really can't tell you how unbelievably the rules of marriage have changed over time.

"And if marriage has always been changing, then why not change it for the better now by making same-sex marriage legally recognized as part of American civil marriage?" Graff asked.

According to Duncan, "Advocates of redefining marriage or creating some kind of status for same-sex couples have had much more success in lawsuits than they ever had in legislative battles."

Legislation to create legal same-sex couple status - ranging from a "domestic partner registry," to domestic partnership benefits, to full-fledged marriage -- is dead or dormant in the following states: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Washington, and Wisconsin.

One state, Maine, passed a bill mandating insurance coverage for domestic partners.

Nevertheless, Duncan said, "There's an increasing push for these kinds of things, and there are obviously people in each legislature willing to sponsor them over and over again, and they're coming forward, I think, in greater and greater numbers."

E-mail a news tip to Jessica Cantelon.

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