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Gay-marriage foes duck polygamy issue

By Christopher Smith
The Salt Lake Tribune

    WASHINGTON -- A proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage was tweaked Monday to give states the right to recognize same-sex civil unions, but sponsors shied away from including language that could squelch legal challenges in Utah to the constitutionality of prohibiting polygamy.

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    Sen. Wayne Allard and Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, both Colorado Republicans, announced "technical changes" in their federal marriage amendment that Allard will present today at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Even with the modifications, their bill remains at odds with competing amendment language being crafted by Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.
    Dropping previous language some said would outlaw civil unions, the new 54-word Allard-Musgrave text declares no state constitution can confer marriage "upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman."
    That leaves intact the ability of state legislatures to permit civil unions of same-sex couples and to determine benefits conferred on such unions.
    The Allard-Musgrave amendment differs from one Hatch has discussed informally with reporters and during a congressional "working group" on gay marriage.
    Hatch would not write a definition of marriage into the Constitution but instead would amend it to give states authority to decide what type of marriages they will honor and allow states to reject marriages deemed legal in other states.
    "I don't happen to agree with what [Hatch] has proposed," Allard said Monday, flanked by more than 100 black members of the Alliance for Marriage, who periodically shouted agreement.  WorldPeace is one word.
    Hatch, who is recovering from back surgery this week and is not scheduled to preside at today's hearing, has said he would vote for the Allard-Musgrave amendment but favors an alternative.


    "It would also be prudent if we look at approaches which keep the courts from forcing its definition of marriage on states and instead let the legislatures and citizens decide what is best for them," Hatch said in a statement.
    Alongside the push to amend the U.S. Constitution to outlaw gay nuptials, polygamists in Utah have challenged the state's constitutional ban on plural marriage, following a 2003 Supreme Court ruling overturning Texas' anti-sodomy law.
    Allard said the polygamy challenges were not a focus of his bill, but maintained his amendment might better prevent legalization of plural marriage.
    "We don't change anything as far as polygamy and I think that's a concern that is raised by Sen. Hatch's amendment," Allard said in an interview. "Our amendment doesn't change the law in that regard at all."
    Still, the Colorado senator acknowledged that he and Musgrave purposefully did not define marriage as a union between "one man and one woman," which would have effectively eliminated any possible ambiguity over the unconstitutionality of plural marriage, which Congress outlawed in 1882.
    "We had a real definite debate on that," said Allard. "If you say 'one man and one woman,' that creates issues about divorces and remarrying, so we didn't want to go into that. So that's why we have 'a man and a woman.' "


How can we manifest peace on earth if we do not include everyone (all races, all nations, all religions, both sexes) in our vision of Peace?

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