Monday, July 27, 2009

Attacking DPs: WI, WA

In Washington, the state has passed a generous domestic partnership law which as I've discussed here, and also here, is under virulent attack by the forces of hate.

You see, although they insist that they only care about the word "marriage", it's clear that they oppose any civil rights for gay people. It's not about marriage. And we need to call them on it over and over.

So, under Washington law (and not unlike Maine's), with enough signatures they can hold a voting referendum against this new law. So the forces of evil have been busy collecting signatures on what is called Referendum 71. It's been a bit of a challenge, because Washingtonians actually support recognition of gay unions (remember, this isn't marriage, just domestic partnerships/civil unions). So the bad guys have been lying about what's on the petition, claiming that it supports marriage equality (a trick they also used in CA). And they've been lying about the referendum itself.
Secretary of State's office spokesman David Ammons says, "The state supreme court has said you can lie in campaign utterances and campaign materials. We have no jurisdiction over extra words and sales pitches that sponsors choose to put on petitions." In other words, the Referendum 71 petitions could claim that the measure would ban abortion, impeach the governor, guarantee salvation... almost anything (short of threats or bribery) to persuade people to sign it.
Wow. Just wow.

This weekend the Referendum 71 supporters handed in their signatures. It will take awhile to know whether they got enough to get it on the ballot, or whether Washingtonians were smart enough to see through their lies. If it does get on the ballot, expect another expensive fight as in CA and ME. The alliance here is Washington Families Standing Together.

Meanwhile, the same sickness has hit Wisconsin. A group has challenged, yes, a domestic partnership bill as being "unconstitutional" because of the state constitutional ban on same sex marriage. But it's not marriage, you say. I agree. The problem is that Wisconsin's Hate Amendment also bans " legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals". So is a domestic partnership substantially like a marriage? Or not?
"We are hopeful that the state Supreme Court will recognize that domestic partnerships are not substantially similar to marriage, and will arrive at a fair and just decision that upholds these basic protections for same-sex couples," Katie Belanger, executive director of Fair Wisconsin, said in the statement.

Here's the problem. Even amongst states, the term "domestic partner" or "civil union" does not have a common meaning. In California, DPs are supposed to have all the rights of marriage (until every one of those rights is litigated, we'll ahve to see). In Wisconsin, DPs have few rights. In Washington, it's something in between. And the forces of hate attack gay couples state by state. Support FairWisconsin.

The conflict is neatly summed up in this US News article:
Conservative Christian groups criticizing the president's memorandum extending certain benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees are alleging that the president is approximating the benefits of marriage—that he's basically creating "marriage light." It's an interesting line of argument because polls show that most Americans support benefits for gay partners but oppose gay marriage.

I'm not saying religious conservatives are acting purely politically—many do believe that providing benefits to gay couples is a sneaky way of legalizing gay unions. But given those poll numbers, it also makes political sense for religious conservatives to try to reframe the benefits issue as a gay marriage issue.

Gay rights advocates, meanwhile, see benefits and gay marriage as much different issues, since extending some benefits to gay partners still excludes key benefits of marriage.

Finally, some revealing quotes from the other side. First, from the NY TImes, about the conflict over 2010 vs 2012 for repeal:
For opponents of same-sex marriage, meanwhile, the debate among gay rights advocates has been entertaining.
Because, of course, denying faithful couples any rights is SO funny.

Second, the LA Times quoted a leader of the movement that is attacking domestic partnerships in Washington state:
"It's the last incremental step to gay marriage for gay activists," said Gary Randall, president of the Faith & Freedom Network, who is helping coordinate the signature campaign. "We're not trying to take anything from anyone. We're simply trying to defend and keep marriage as it has always been throughout all of human history."
So what do you call it when you repeal a law that grants people basic rights? If that's not taking something away from someone, what is? We know they lie. But really, isn't it time someone call them out on it?

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