This Guest Opinion appears online only and not in the Tucson Citizen’s print edition.
Here’s something we are hoping Arizonans get about the so-called “Protect Marriage Arizona” initiative: It will be harmful to all couples, gay or straight.
Unfortunately, it’s already illegal for two people of the same sex to marry in Arizona. The laws banning same-sex marriage have already survived challenges in Arizona courts and remain in force. Whether this amendment passes or fails will not change this fact.
So, the proposed initiative is truly not about banning gay marriage. The real goal of the small group of proponents behind this extreme measure is to take away the benefits currently being offered to unmarried couples and their families in Arizona.
Don’t believe me? Here is the wording of the proposed amendment:
“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.”
The second part of the amendment will clearly render any recognition of domestic partnerships, as well as the Tucson Domestic Partner Registry, as violations of the law.
If it passes, domestic partners of those who work for Pima County or the cities of Tucson, Phoenix, Scottsdale or Tempe will lose medical and other benefits. The Tucson Domestic Partner Registry will be voided. Unmarried couples will lose the ability to visit their loved ones in a hospital and barred from making medical decisions.
It may even result in domestic violence laws being overturned. In Ohio, where a similar amendment passed, a man who beat his girlfriend had a reduced sentence because the judge ruled that domestic violence laws no longer applied to unmarried couples.
And, in Utah, a protective order was challenged by a defense lawyer for a man who continued to show up at a former girlfriend’s home.
At this point it will be hard to measure all of the “unintended consequences” if this proposed amendment were to pass. But it is clear that it is extreme and mean-spirited.
What does it take to drive people into exceptional leadership and put a stop to harmful initiatives? Often it’s just educating people about the consequences.
Other times it takes a group such as Arizona Together, a coalition formed by gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and straight individuals and groups whose members have a strong sense of social justice.
Members include faith-based and civil rights groups, as well as nonpartisan organizations such as Wingspan, the Arizona Human Rights Fund, the Arizona Psychological Association and the Arizona Public Health Association.
Galvanized by the proposed amendment, Arizona Together members are encouraging people to refuse to sign the petition initiative that ultimately will hurt Arizona’s families. They are asking Arizonans to say “Enough.”
Vicki B. Gaubeca is a civil rights advocate, who also works at the University of Arizona. Her e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org.