Busting up illegal unions?

The fight against same sex marriage is heating up, with opponents now trying to do away with domestic partnerships in the guise of "protecting marriage." Here's the text from a leading California ballot initiative which would amend the state's constitution:

SEC. 1.1. a) Only marriage between one man and one woman is valid or recognized in California, whether contracted in this state or elsewhere.

b) Neither the Legislature nor any court, government institution, government agency, initiative statute, local government or government official shall abolish the civil institution of marriage between one man and one woman, or bestow statutory rights or incidents of marriage on unmarried persons, or require private entities to offer or provide rights or incidents of marriage to unmarried persons. Any public act, record, or judicial proceeding, from within this state or another jurisdiction, that violates this section is void and unenforceable. (Emphasis added to inflame the proponents.)

Note the phrase "rights or incidents of marriage." That's what this is really about, as there is no legal same sex marriage in California, and it's doubtful there will be any time soon. Nonetheless, the initiative's advocates are in a legal tussle with California Attorney General Bill Lockyer over the official ballot summary -- which the advocates claim should stick to the protection of marriage issue and not highlight the elimination of domestic partnerships. Most likely, this is because experience shows that most voters will only read the summary, if anything at all, so they're hoping that "protection of marriage" will be the only words on voters' radar.

Here's the San Mateo Journal:

The attorney general summarizes measures before they are added to the ballot, but one of the amendment’s official sponsors said Lockyer was “inaccurate and prejudicial” and vowed to challenge it in court.

Lockyer’s changed the title from “The Voters’ Right to Protect Marriage Act” to “Marriage. Elimination of Domestic Partnership Rights.” A spokesman for the attorney general’s office said Lockyer did not intend to take a position but to “tell voters the truth.”

(More here from the initiative's sponsors.)

Lockyer is accused of misleading voters by telling them too much about what the measure would eliminate:

While noting that the amendment would "provide that only marriage between one man and one woman is valid or recognized in California," it goes on to state that the measure "voids and restricts registered domestic partner rights and obligations" in areas ranging from inheritance and adoption to insurance benefits and hospital visitation."

"The attorney general's responsibility is to accurately describe what the measure does," said Nathan Barankin, a spokesman for Lockyer. "It's not up to us to wage the political campaign the proponents or opponents want to wage, just to tell the voters the truth."

The amendment's official sponsors - Randy Thomasson of the Campaign for Children and Families, former Assemblyman Larry Bowler and Sacramento activist Ed Hernandez - can ask a court to invalidate or amend the attorney general's proposed summary if they think it doesn't accurately reflect their intent. Representatives of their group, VoteMarriageYes.com, did not return telephone calls seeking comment.

The stripped-down language could prove a liability for the amendment's proponents as they seek to qualify it for the ballot and win voter approval.

Although California voters approved a ballot initiative five years ago limiting marriage to a man and a woman, since then the state Legislature has granted gay and elderly couples who register as domestic partners nearly all the rights and responsibilities of married spouses. Polls have shown most voters support extending the rights of marriage, if not the institution itself, to same-sex couples.

"California voters, even though they are relatively liberal, probably do not support gay marriage," said Elizabeth Garrett, a University of Southern California law professor. "But if it's very clear to voters it is not just a gay marriage amendment than it is less likely to pass. Opponents will capitalize on that and it gives them a chance to characterize this as an extreme initiative out of the California mainstream."

Sigh. Like it or not, an ill-informed electorate seems to be a way of life in California. What ought to matter is not what the summary says, but what the initiative says, and this legal debate seems to be centered around the anticipated intellectual laziness of the voters.

Anyway, this initiative is a perfect example of what's known as a backlash, and I think the gay activists (and Gavin Newsom) mostly brought it on themselves. Certainly, there's nothing fair about it; California has gotten along quite well with domestic partnerships. They're voluntary, and no one is obligated to enter into them. Making them illegal violates the individual right to enter into private contracts, and will open a can of worms I hope will come back to haunt those who are promoting this odious amendment.

(My thoughts on prohibiting "incidents of marriage" here, here, and here.)

Meanwhile, there's yet another competing ballot initiative which limits itself to a single sentence (to be added to the California Constitution):

Sec. 7.5. A marriage between a man and a woman is the only legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state.
The second initiative is supported by a wide coalition (including Focus on the Family, Family Research Council, Pacific Justice Institute, and Concerned Women For America). It's probably more likely to pass, because it's easier for voters to understand.

But is the phrase "legal union" easy to understand? Googling the phrase gave me over 28,000 hits. What if you're in an "illegal union", or an unconstitutional common law marriage?

Vagueness often masquerades as simplicity.

posted by Eric on 08.03.05 at 08:53 AM


I can respect the Burkean conservative argument against homosexual marrige, i.e., that it's never been done before in the West, and that if something (like marriage) "ain't broke, don't fix it". I'm opposed to change generally myself, except the change in my pocket. I disagree in this particular issue for other, theologically conservative, reasons of my own, but I can still respect their viewpoint, agree to disagree.

But the people promoting these ballot propositions are, all too obviously, not traditionalist conservatives, but "activist" haters of homosexuals, determined to punish them by denying them all the "rights and incidents" of marriage. Most of these organizations are on record as supporting "sodomy" laws. They will do whatever they can get away with in order to persecute a hated minority, particularly a sexual minority. Since it's no longer "respectable" to persecute Jews or Negroes, they target homosexuals. They need a scapegoat.

And, as you have shown here, they are also liars. Honesty is obviously not part of their "moral" agenda.

I'm with you.

While I don't have any problem with gay marriage (after all, I see it as just a contract between consensual adults), I understand that it may take a while for people to adjust. Many people are still adjusting to the very idea that gay people 'exist' and (heaven forbid) that it is 'natural'.
So it will take even longer with something like marriage, that many people beleive to be the epitomy of their lives. Hopefully the rush to enact gay marriage has only hurt the issue in the short term, and we can find middle ground later, when everyone's calmed down.

alchemist   ·  August 3, 2005 5:26 PM

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