On January 20, 2004, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom attended the State of the Union Address and was outraged by the President's call for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. The mayor quickly put his fury into action and on February 13 I was able to marry my partner of 23 years. (Yes, I knew it was legally uncertain -- but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to honor decades of love and commitment.)
The Campaign for Children and Families and other pro-family organizations immediately took their outrage to court. On my six month anniversary, my marriage was involuntarily dissolved by the California Supreme Divorce Court.
The Campaign for Children and Families is now back at it again with a campaign that seeks to utilize a particularly insidious deception.
On January 1, 2005, California's domestic partners were granted every spousal right covered by state
law with the exception of the joint filing of state income taxes. The Campaign for Children and Families quickly returned to court. This time, when the case was presented to the California Supreme Court, the court declined to hear the case and let the law stand.
Now, the Campaign for Children and Families is about to begin distributing a petition to put a constitutional amendment on the state ballot:
Section 3: Marriage Protection
Section 1.1 of Article I of the Constitution is added to read:
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.
The proposed amendment would ban gay marriage issues from consideration by the legislature. Another constitutional amendment would be required to eliminate the ban. It is important to note that a case on the constitutionality of denying marriage to same-sex couples is currently on its way to a hearing in the California Supreme Court. It's not clear if the court's decision will precede a vote on the amendment.
The proposed amendment would also nullify all existing domestic partner rights! The organization, supported by a long list of churches, is entirely comfortable with taking away many rights including:
the right to receive a portion of your partner's property if he or she dies without a will;
the right to use employee sick leave to care for a sick partner or partner's child;
the right to hospital visitation;
the right to make medical decisions if your partner becomes incapacitated;
the right to sue for wrongful death of your partner;
the right to use stepparent adoption procedures to adopt a partner's child;
and the right to receive unemployment benefits if forced to relocate because of a partner's job.
However, the Campaign for Children and Families wishes to keep the potentially unpopular specifics of the amendment off of the petition. sfgate.com explains how California Attorney General Bill Lockyer is defying the sponsors and seeking to explain to potential signers precisely what the amendment would actually do:
From top to bottom, the Democratic attorney general's 100-word analysis makes it clear that if the amendment passed, it would limit a lot more than marriage to unions between a man and a woman. While sponsors submitted a working title of "The Voters' Right to Protect Marriage Initiative," for instance, the attorney general has renamed it, "Marriage. Elimination of Domestic Partnership Rights."
The summary that would appear at the top of the petitions that will be circulated for signatures similarly calls attention to how the amendment would reverse the six-year course the state Legislature has been on in extending significant spousal rights to same-sex couples.
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."
sfgate.com cites the response from Randy Thomasson of the Campaign for Children and Families:
"Lockyer completely ignores the chief points, ... the whole issue is the protection of marriage."
As sfgate.com points out, a major concern to amendment sponsors is the fact that:
Polls have shown most voters support extending the rights of marriage, if not the institution itself, to same-sex couples.
As a result, the Campaign for Children and Families has vowed to return to court to try eliminate Lockyer's language that details the actual impact of the proposed amendment.
Two other organizations have also qualified to distribute petitions for their own amendments banning gay marriage. The amendment sponsored by ProtectMarriage.com is more restrictive than the one sponsored by the Campaign for Children and Families:
ProtectMarriage.com campaign said would go even further by preventing the state government from recognizing same-sex unions in any way...
Andrew Pugno, an attorney for the Proposition 22 Legal Defense and Education Fund, said his clients felt compelled to put forth a second gay marriage amendment because they think the first leaves room for lawmakers to confer legal and economic rights to same-sex couples as long as they aren't already reserved for marriage.
The proposed text for the final two petitions has not yet been published. If all petitions are successful, Californians may have the opportunity to vote for three different constitutional amendments banning gay marriage and domestic partnership benefits.
You can keep updated on ongoing developments regarding this issue at Equality California.