If a statewide vote is to be taken on a gay marriage ban, should it be separated from the issue of civil unions and domestic partner benefits?

The Virtual Editorials - E3 (May 22, 2005) - Dennis Foster

Introduction:  There was a flurry of interest in amending the Arizona constitution to prohibit gay marriage.  Petitions were being circulated and the measure will likely go to the voters in the fall of 2005.

Virtual Editorial #3

     Most certainly the issues should be separated.  Otherwise, the proposition can be challenged and, failing to meet constitutional requirements, never make it to the ballot at all.  The referendum process is not friendly when it comes to finessing issues.

     The real problem is that we get all worked up about the details of a specific proposal and don’t look at the larger picture – we fail to see the forest for the trees.

     For example, Proposition 100 was not about big boxes, but, rather, about using government to restrict voluntary economic relationships.  Likewise, the current issue is not about gay marriage, but, rather, about using government to restrict voluntary personal relationships.  Neither has anything to do with governing.

     A better solution to this problem is to privatize marriage – eliminate state sanctioning and licensing.  Consenting individuals can make whatever (legal) contractual agreements they want.  End the government’s beneficial, or harmful, treatment of individuals based on their marital status.  And, private firms can grapple with the issue of what “domestic partner benefits” they need to offer in order to attract good workers.

     However, marriage rituals and “certificates” will likely fall within the province of our many places of worship – churches, synagogues, mosques and casinos.

Afterword:  Many years ago, I wrote an opinion piece in favor of "The Taxpayer Protection Act of 2000," which would have repealed income taxes in Arizona.  I wrote specifically about repealing the corporate income tax, which is just a hidden tax on consumers.  The referendum was challenged, in court, on the grounds that it violates the "one issue" rule - that is, any such proposition can only be about one issue.  Any attempt to add in other issues (presumably to enhance its voter appeal) will be unsuccessful.  That happened in the tax case - it was challenged and thrown off the ballot.  So, even while complicated issues require complicated solutions, trying to change the constitution through the referendum process is problematic, at best.

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