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A Louisiana appeals court ruled Monday that a proposed amendment to the state constitution banning gay marriage should remain on the ballot, overturning a lower court ruling and sending the issue to the state Supreme Court. The ruling came in one of three lawsuits filed by gay activists to keep the amendment off the Sept. 18 ballot. John Rawls, a lawyer for the activists, said he planned to ask the state’s highest court to consider the three cases together. The “Defense of Marriage” amendment, passed by state lawmakers earlier this year, would also ban state officials and courts from recognizing out-of-state marriages and civil unions between homosexuals. Louisiana already has a law stating that marriage can be only between a man and woman, but supporters of an amendment banning gay marriage want to protect that law in the state Constitution. The lawsuits argued that the amendment would unconstitutionally deprive unmarried couples — gay or straight — of the right to enter into contracts and own property. Supporters of the ban disagree. A lower-court judge ordered the proposed amendment off the ballot after finding it unconstitutional because it dealt with more than one issue and because a statewide election does not fall on Sept. 18. The unanimous appeals panel overturned the ruling on both points. Supporters of the ban issued a statement criticizing the lawsuits as an attempt to prevent voters from deciding the issue. “Opponents of this amendment keep failing in their attempt to use the courts to circumvent the will of the people,” said Mike Johnson, a lawyer for the conservative Alliance Defense Fund. Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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