Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Get government out of marriage

In a fitting follow-up to my last post about the discrimination suit in Massachusetts over the Defense of Marriage Act, there is a group trying to get an initiative on the California ballot to replace the term "marriage" with "domestic partnership" in all of California's laws. Here's the summary:

SUBSTITUTES DOMESTIC PARTNERSHIP FOR MARRIAGE IN CALIFORNIA LAW. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT AND STATUTE. Replaces the term “marriage” with the term “domestic partnership” throughout California law, but preserves the rights provided in marriage. Applies equally to all couples, regardless of sexual orientation. Repeals the provision in California’s Constitution that states only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: This measure would have an unknown fiscal effect on state and local governments. (09-0003.)

On the Facebook group site, the authors of the initiative explain:
The idea behind this compromise is to provide equal rights, without offending the religious community who claim that "marriage" is a religious institution. Thus, "Marriage" itself would become a social ceremony instead of a political institution.

I'm not sure why they included specific language about repealing Prop 8 (which reinforced the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman) since if all laws apply to domestic partners, the definition of marriage seems a bit moot and simply would create more political difficulties. Regardless, it seems that there are plenty of people on both sides of the issue that hate this initiative (conservatives for the reasons you would expect, liberals because it doesn't go far enough), and it's a long shot that it will even get on the ballot, let alone pass, but if you want to sign the petition or or learn more, you can visit their website: www.dompar.org (though apparently, they've been having some server issues due to higher-than-expected interest so the site's been down the last few days).

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

It's about time

One thing I have never been able to figure out about the gay-marriage issue is why no one has sued state or federal governments over policies that confer benefits based on being married. In California, I think (but someone please correct me if I'm wrong!) that almost any policy that applies to spouses also applies to domestic partners (and I'm talking legally, setting aside whether hospitals or other institutions actually make it equally easy for partners to exercise those rights). But in other states, and in federal policies, there are all kinds of things that give benefits to married couples that are not available to 'domestic partners'. It has always seemed so strange to me that you could have one law that says "Group X gets this benefit", another law that says, "You are not allowed to be part of Group X", and not have the first law considered discriminatory. I assume it has to do with some legal issue about 'protected class' or appropriate grounds for 'discrimination', but it just seems wrong.

So I was really happy to hear that a group of same-sex couples and gay widowers in Massachusetts have finally filed a discrimination suit against the federal government over the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). I think the likelihood that they prevail is probably pretty low but I'll certainly be rooting for them...