Lawmakers Favor Ban, Disclosure

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An Associated Press survey of the Alabama Legislature finds overwhelming support for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages, but Democrats warn it may not pass if Republicans insist on presenting it to voters at the next General Election.

Democrats point to the 11 states that had same-sex marriage bans on last November's General Election ballot and how nine of those states went for Republican George Bush, including the key swing state of Ohio.

A week after Bush's victory, the Republican caucuses in the Alabama House and Senate announced that a constitutional ban on same-sex marriages would be one of their priorities for the legislative session starting Feb. 1.

They said their goal was to send it to voters for approval in the General Election in November 2006.

In announcing the agenda, Senate Republican leader Jabo Waggoner said the presidential election "clearly showed that the people want conservative reform."

Some Democrats say Republicans want the same-sex marriage ban on the November 2006 ballot to try to bring out more conservative voters and bolster the Republican Party's effort to wrest control of the Legislature from Democrats.

Democratic Sen. Rodger Smitherman of Birmingham said it appears Republicans "are trying to use the same script on the state level they used on the national level."

Alabama already has a law banning same-sex marriages, but advocates of the ban say they want to make it stronger by putting it in the state constitution.

In a survey answered by 91 percent of the Senate and 74 percent of the House, 94 percent of the senators and 81 percent of the representatives said they want the Legislature to approve the constitutional amendment. The remaining legislators were either opposed or undecided.

The survey also indicates a majority of legislators would support a bill that would force groups trying to influence lawmakers to disclose the source of their money.

The bill by Rep. Randy Hinshaw, a Democrat from Huntsville, died in the Legislature last year after a four-day filibuster led by Republicans, who said the bill was aimed at forcing the Christian Coalition to disclose where it gets its money.

Hinshaw said he believes there will be additional support for his bill in the regular session because of published remarks last year by Ralph Reed, former executive director of the National Christian Coalition.

Reed said he had taken money from lobbyists representing four Indian tribes with casinos, including the Mississippi band of the Choctaw Indians.

Operators of Alabama's greyhound race tracks have complained in the past that they suspected Mississippi casinos were contributing to efforts to defeat gambling legislation in Alabama.

In the AP survey, almost two-thirds of House members responding and 80 percent of senators responding said they favor the legislation.

Christian Coalition state president John Giles says he has been assured by Reed that he never gave the Christian Coalition of Alabama money that came from casinos. He said Christian Coalition officials have prepared a letter they plan to share with legislators concerning Reed.

Hinshaw's bill would force groups to disclose the source of money when they run ads to influence legislation. Hinshaw says organizations can currently fund a campaign to defeat or pass legislation without disclosing their identity, calling them "shadow groups."