Wednesday, March 01, 2006

AZ Catholic bishops got it wrong

Today's big headline in the Arizona Daily Star was "GAY UNION BAN GAINS CATHOLIC BACKING." Not surprisingly, I have a lot to say about this.

First of all, the headline is misleading. This amendment is much broader than merely a "gay union ban." We already have a Defense of Marriage Act on the books banning gay marriage. What this amendment does is so much more, taking protections and rights away from ALL families that don't happen to have a married couple at the head.

Second, the bishops got it wrong. I'm not talking theologically; while I disagree with their theology on this issue, I think theology is a squishy enough area it's hard to define "right" and "wrong." But facts, those can definitely be right or wrong, and the bishops got the facts wrong. In their pastoral statement on marriage, the Bishops Donald E. Pelotte of Gallup NM, Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, and Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix write:

It should be noted that the initiative permits the creation of “reciprocal benefits” whereby employees are able to select any other household member to receive benefits in addition to themselves. The creation of such a benefits program is positive for all people. Many elderly family members living with relatives could also find this beneficial.

Uh, no it doesn't. On the contrary, it specifically would make such "reciprocal benefits" arrangements unconstitutional. Let's look at the initiative text once more, shall we?

To preserve and protect marriage in this state, only a union between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage by this state or its political subdivisions and no legal status for unmarried persons shall be created or recognized by this state or its political subdivisions that is similar to that of marriage.

As much as Protect Marriage Arizona would like us to believe that second part (in boldface) doesn't exist, it does. It's on the petitions, which means that's what will be on the ballot if it gets that far. And "reciprocal benefits," at least for couples, would be precisely the state recognizing "legal status for unmarried persons... that is similar to that of marriage." So I fail to see how the bishops can argue that the amendment allows for something it quite specifically precludes. One needs only turn to the Center for Arizona Policy (major backers of this amendment) and its own statement about benefits for domestic partners in Alaska to see what the real goal is:

Alaska, like most states, promotes marriage by offering employee benefits to married couples and financially dependent children. Now the Alaska Supreme Court has agreed with legal arguments by the ACLU that the state must provide marriage benefits to same sex domestic partners. This decision is yet another example of why the Protect Marriage Arizona Amendment is needed. The Alaska Constitution clearly defines marriage as between a man and a woman, but that didn’t stop the courts from forcing a marriage counterfeit on the state.

Did you read that carefully? The reason the Protect Marriage Arizona Amendment is "needed" is to keep "marriage counterfeit[s]" such as domestic partner benefits out of the state.

Bishops, do your research. Get your facts right before you issue a statement because this amendment is much more insidious than you're leading your parishioners to believe. What was that commandment about bearing false witness again?


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