1/28/2009

Forcing the Civil Union Issue...

Protesters in San Francisco campaign for marri...Image via Wikipedia

Back in December I mentioned a guy who arranges "Gay Commitment Ceremonies" who decided that he'd step around everyone and start a drive for "Civil Partnerships" in Arizona and abandon the efforts for full marriage rights.

At the time I said I was undecided but leaning away from such an idea because it was inherently flawed and would lead to a nightmare of red tape and confusion.

Well, his fledgling group, "Yes for Arizona Civil Partnerships" has forced the issue by filing for a serial number to begin collecting signatures on a statewide petition to get the item on the ballot as an initiative.

Gay rights advocates are seeking to change the state Constitution to allow "civil partnerships" among same-sex couples.

The newly formed group, Yes For Arizona Civil Partnerships, filed an application Monday with the Arizona Secretary of State's Office to place the measure on the ballot in November 2010. Members of the group must first collect more than 250,000 valid signatures.

The proposed legal unions would give gay couples all the legal benefits of marriage, but none of the religious attachments. In fact, a provision in the measure stipulates that people cannot register as civil partners on a religious premise or even on a site owned by a religious group.

Those details would make "civil partnerships" distinctly different than gay marriage or "civil union" measures, said the group's chairman, Gino Meriano, a gay rights campaigner from London who currently lives in Scottsdale.

Those details also should make the measure appeasable to two important constituencies - the gay community at large and Christian leaders, Meriano told the Guardian on Tuesday.

"The gay community seems to consider that civil unions were always classed as second rate and that they didn't come with full civil rights and they had a bit of a taint to them," he said. "And marriage is pretty much off the table, especially when it comes to Arizona."

The concept is disingenuous and headed for defeat, said Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy, a family advocacy organization.

"Whatever they're calling it, it's a marriage counterfeit and we believe that marriage should be between one man and one woman," she said. (AZ Guardian)

I hate to agree with Cathi "Kill the firstborn queer child" Herrod, but I do hope that this idea comes to nothing. It's bad enough having a law that will create massive confusion if we are able to overturn DOMA nationally since it would not allow us to share in the federal rights. Beyond this tinkering with thousands of state laws to add "Civil Partnership" is ridiculous and won't get done. Finally, as has already been reported in other areas where "Civil Unions" or "Civil Partnerships" are allowed, employers routinely deny healthcare and other benefits extended to married people by citing contracts from outside the state with insurers that state "married."

John Allard of Marriage Equality - Arizona released the following statement:
We definitely sympathize with the frustration the backers of the Arizona Civil Partnership Proposition are feeling. A constitutional amendment was just passed in our state that is unconstitutional, stripping Arizona citizens of access to basic rights. We will continue to work for access to full civil marriage for all couples. We are speaking with citizens across Arizona regarding the right to full marriage equality. One of our concerns is that civil unions have been shown to set up a system of ‘separate but unequal.’ The New Jersey Civil Union Review Commission report detailed several ways in which civil unions failed to provide equal status to that of marriage.

The Arizona Chapter of Marriage Equality USA will continue to work for access to full civil marriage equality. We look forward to working toward this goal in a concerted, unified, strategic way that includes the entire LGBTIQ population and our allies.

Meanwhile, "progressives" have waded into the matter without bothering to get the full story or do their research. Debbie Jordon of the Phoenix Examiner stated: "Naturally, I’m delighted to share this information. I’ll continue to post updates as I receive them. Hold onto hope for equality for all."

Unfortunately, Ms. Jordan has not bothered to read the New Jersey study on Civil Unions that proves far from "equality for all" they have created a second class mired in confusing terminology and denial of rights based on various language in contracts and private company paperwork.

So, while all this might help Mr. Meriano's bottom line in his "Gay Wedding" business, and more to the point help his other business which seems to be helping couples and businesses navigate the minefield that is a "civil union" - it won't do anything of real substance to help us except codify our second class status and create a massive confused mess of patchwork rights and restrictions. Mr. Meriano, from London, seems not to understand American politics and law very well.

Kenny Jacobs of the Pima County Democratic Party noted on a Facebook posting:

The effort to gather the signatures and place on the ballot an initiative for 'civil unions' will prove difficult at best and very likely only serve those who oppose our equality. To fail in this attempt will provide fodder for CAP and their like, to actually place on the ballot will turn out voters from the far right/social conservative segment of Arizona voters.

While one can always exercise her/his rights to participate in our political process, one should not fail to see the greater good for our communities, or how this particular effort does not serve our communities.

I will comment on one further obvious point; many of us who have worked on these campaigns and initiatives have advised this is an ill-fated effort. Then again, we just do politics, not weddings.

This is nothing more than an attempt at compromise with people like Cathi Herrod by scared gays who are willing to accept anything. In hoping to appease the likes of morons like her, they are willing to sell out our Civil Rights. In the end, as we see from the above, there will be no reprochment with such extremist hags so let's fight for the real thing and put her and her followers where they belong. Cathi Herrod will go down in history as the equal of people like George Wallace.

Finally, in following the threads of Mr. Meriano's website and his biggest supporter, Philip Cotton, it appears that this is not a case of an established LGBT rights organization supporting this proposal but an associate of Mr. Meriano setting up a front organization to lend legitimacy to his proposal. Meanwhile the entire spectrum of established equality organizations have soundly denounced this move as seen here.

So, if someone sticks a "Civil Partnership" petition in front of you, please refuse to sign. While you might be thinking you'd help us out because the Cathi Herrods of the world are against it, you really won't be moving us forward at all but setting us up for setbacks when the tide finally shifts nationally. Remember, they are not speaking for the majority of LGBT citizens of the state but promoting a terrible measure designed to shore up their personal business interests.

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