1/31/2009

No Answers from Philip Cotton

John Allard of Marriage Equality Arizona spent almost two hours recently emailing Phillip Cotton of "Unified Voice" about the claims he makes about the "Civil Partnership" initiative he and Gino Meriano are pushing.

Mr. Cotton was unable to give any concrete answers to the question at the time and pleaded an early appointment and promised to respond fully to Mr. Allard's questions no later than Friday afternoon. As of 3:30 on Saturday afternoon, Mr. Cotton has yet to provide any response to Allard's concerns and questions.

Here are the questions John Allard proposed and that Phillip Cotton was unable to respond to without further consideration and/or research:
What is the difference between a civil union and a civil partnership?

What makes one legally superior to the other?
How can one offer rights that the other one does not, if the only difference is the name?

Will this only work in Arizona, or why is it not being tried first in states that have already taken the first step, like New Jersey where they have found that Civil Unions do not work? Wouldn’t that be the perfect test state for this?

Is there something in the language of this initiative which will prevent private companies from using federal laws to keep from offering rights, like has happened in every state with Civil Unions?

You say that no established national organization operating in Arizona will answer or return your calls or emails, which I must admit scares me a little. Have you asked those organizations if their objection is just about this State at this time?

Is it possible that the lawyer you are working with may be able to craft a similar proposition for another State which they feel is more ready, and that they may support this during an election cycle when there is not so much at stake?

The GLBT community in Arizona really needs a win. We got one in 2006, but then we suffered a horrible loss in 2008. When we suffered the loss in 2008 Democrats were mobilized in such large numbers that Barack Obama almost beat John McCain in this state, and yet we lost.

The Democrats have already said that they will not support your initiative and risk losing statewide elections. CAP has said that they will fight any “Marriage Substitute.” Major GLBT organizations are coming out against your initiative. I was actually advised, “Just ignore them and they will go away. They are only trying to promote a gay wedding business. They know that they will not win even if they make it to the ballot. They are just in it for the publicity.”

If I should not just ignore you and let you go away, what is the plan to keep everyone else from ignoring you?
It appears the Phillip Cotton and Gino Meriano are disinclined to answer John Allard because he represents a legitimate LGBT rights organization in the state. Therefore, I have proposed that those of us who are concerned about the direction of this initiative and its potential to devastate our community at a time when we are trying to recover from a major loss, email Mr. Cotton and ask him to resond to not only Mr. Allard's excellent questions but others as well.

Here are the questions, I personally have put to Phillip Cotton by email:
1. How will your initiative guarantee full rights in light of the fact that the recent New Jersey Commission report has shown them to be detrimental when used as a "substitute" for actual Civil Marriage?

2. You state that your initiative will allow LGBT couples and families to receive equal tax benefits. How will your initiative skirt the federal DOMA to insure this will happen?

3. You say your initiative will insure equal employee benefits such as healhcare. How will your initiative require employers to give such benefits when it has been shown they almost always use the federal ERISA statutes to say that "Civil Unions" or "Civil Partnerships" are not marriage and therefore not required to be extended benefits?

4. You state that your initiative will insure equal status in regards to immigration policies such as being able to sponsor a partner. However, this is a federal law. How will your initiative if passed in Arizona change federal statutes or insure this right?

5. Why do donations for your organization go to Gino Meriano's "Pink Weddings, LLC" business account on PayPal?

6. You claim that LGBT couples and families would be exempt from the inheritance tax. Since this is a federal tax, how will your state initiative change this law?

7. Who drafted your initiative and has it been vetted by legal experts familiar with LGBT issues as well as authorship of legislation.

8. What legal firms are backing your initiative and prepared to file on behalf of LGBT families if faced with discrimination should the law pass?

9. Why are all major LGBT rights groups and the Democratic Party opposing this initiative at this time?
Please join me in demanding that Cotton and Meriano do more to explain themselves to our community than promoting their business interests and grabbing their 15 minutes of fame on television and in print by claiming to speak for all of us who have worked so long and hard on full marriage equality.

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