Keep current on same-sex marriage

The debate concerning whether to allow same-sex marriage is not cooling off.

Conversations on the topic, sometimes heated, take place at dinner tables, in legislative halls, courtrooms and in churches.

A number of sites online add light to the heat, providing informative updates on legislative developments, analysis of court decisions and pending law as well as links to useful resources.

The National Conference of State Legislatures § www.ncsl.org § focuses on state legislation. The site includes a section, "Same Sex Marriage, Civil Unions and Domestic Partnerships," and provides a break down on which states issue marriage licenses, recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages, allow civil unions and/or provide spousal rights to unmarried couples.

NCSL also links to timelines, tables and charts that provide current information on the state of the law and an overview of the issues.

Paul Axel-Lute, deputy director of Rutgers Law Library, has assembled a comprehensive guide to the subject, "Same-Sex Marriage: A Selective Bibliography of the Legal Literature" § http://law-library.rutgers.edu/ resources/SSM.html § which includes references to cases, articles, legislation, books, symposia and other resources on the Web. The bibliography is thorough and balanced because Axel-Lute takes pains to include references to articles that reflect varying points of view. Sites discussing same-sex marriage treatment in selected foreign jurisdictions are a nice addition, as are sections on polygamy, parenting and tax issues.

DOMAwatch.org is a Web site supported by organizations in favor of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, the law that defines marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman. Its stated purpose is to provide information to legislators and attorneys about current laws and legislation on state Defense of Marriage Acts.

The site includes links to state laws and to indices of cases involving DOMA issues. Following case index links, users can drill down to actual court documents such as complaints and decisions. Interactive maps feature access to DOMA news by circuit or by state. DOMAwatch.org also includes some current awareness material, for instance summaries of events such as the federal Prop 8 trial. The site is updated regularly, and the viewpoint of contributing groups is acknowledged.

Lambda Legal is a national advocate for the recognition of the civil rights, including marriage rights, of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people § www.lambdalegal.org. Its Web site's "Marriage, Relationships and Family Law" section posts articles and position pieces in support of marriage equality. "In Your State" allows users to click on an interactive map that produces a summary of the relationship recognition laws, employment protections, as well fact sheets and backgrounder documents. The New York entry under "In Your State," for instance, posts a fact sheet explaining state agency recognition of same-sex couples' out-of-state marriages.

The sites listed here are updated regularly, and most include dated features so that users can determine the currency of the data. That's important, because the legislative and case law landscapes regarding same-sex marriage issues are changing regularly.

In addition to verifying the vintage of the information, users should be sure to check each site's "About Us" section. Understanding the position of a site's sponsor enables researchers to determine whether a bias or social or political agenda is present that may affect the validity of the information presented.

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Joan Pedzich is the director of Library Services for Harris Beach PLLC and is active in both the Association of Law Libraries of Upstate New York and the American Association of Law Libraries.

Published: Fri, Feb 26, 2010