Proposition 107: Protecting marriage or denying benefits?by La Monica Everett-haynes on Oct. 24, 2006, under Elections, Family, Local
Supporters, opponents debate measure’s purpose
Proposition 107 is one of the most widely debated measures on the November ballot, drawing ire from gay rights activists and praise from many conservative groups.
While a number of state divisions – schools, cities and counties – offer benefits to unwed couples, the amendment would make it illegal to do so.
That’s because the amendment would define marriage strictly as a male-female match and would bar state government from creating legal unions for unwed couples.
In effect, the proposition has created a rift between those who say marriage must be protected and others who say civil rights are at stake because of religious morals.
Gay marriage is already outlawed in Arizona, but the Protect Marriage Arizona Coalition, which initiated the measure, said such an amendment is necessary to preserve the definition of marriage.
Political campaign committee Arizona Together, which opposes the proposition, said domestic partners and unwed couples risk losing health care benefits and some protections.
Unwed heterosexual couples could also be affected, although they would still have the option to marry.
Q: What restrictions would Proposition 107 create?
A: The state and its divisions would not be able to recognize marriages or unions between unwed couples or same-sex partners. Creating such a status for same-sex couples would be illegal. Domestic partner benefits offered by the city of Tucson, Pima County and elsewhere would become void. Partners of firefighters, police officers and school, college and university employees, among others, may be at risk of losing benefits.
Q: Why does the proposition exist when same-sex marriages are already outlawed in Arizona?
A: The proposed amendment would prevent courts and policymakers from trying to interpret the definition of marriage because it would be clearly explained in the state constitution.
Q: Have similar measures been approved in other states?
A: Yes. Those states include Georgia Louisiana, Nebraska, Texas and Utah. Colorado, Idaho and Tennessee are among the states voting next month on constitutional amendments to ban same-sex marriages.
Massachusetts is the only state where same-sex marriage is legal.
Q: Does the amendment carry an economic or financial impact in Arizona?
A: Some say it may result in savings because the government would not grant certain benefits. Arizona Together officials say couples would likely have more medical-related expenses.
Q: How would seniors who don’t want to marry be affected?
A: Proposition supporters say they would not be affected, but Arizona Together argues that some seniors may have to weigh the loss of benefits against marriage. Attorneys say it is not clear whether a senior’s pension and Social Security benefits could be jeopardized. Exact ways in which inheritance rights, shared earnings and property rights could be affected also remain unclear.
Q: How many people or families in Arizona could be affected by this law?
A: Estimates vary, but census figures show that of more than 1.9 million households in the state, nearly 60 percent are coupled. The amendment has the potential to affect 106,000 of those households with unwed heterosexual couples and 12,332 households with unwed same-sex couples. It would directly affect 476 couples on Tucson’s domestic partner registry and 12 people receiving University of Arizona benefits.
Q: Would private companies be required to abide by the law?
A: Protect Marriage Arizona says no – that the amendment affects only the government, not private companies. But Arizona Together representatives are concerned about so-called ambiguous wording in the amendment. The opposition says the term “political subdivisions” listed in the amendment may be interpreted to mean contracted companies.
Q: How much money have both sides spent on supporting or defeating the proposition?
A: The state’s most current campaign finance report shows that Protect Marriage Arizona Coalition raised nearly $523,000, but overextended its budget by more than $1,200. However, officials said the budget has since come out of the red. Arizona Together intended to raise $2.7 million, but has so far raised more than $1 million.
Q: Who supports or has endorsed the proposition?
A: The Center for Arizona Policy and its founder, Len Munsil, the republican candidate for governor; U.S. Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl; congressman John Shadegg; Secretary of State Jan Brewer; numerous state representatives and senators, and organizations including the National Association of Marriage Enhancement, Arizona Catholic Conference, United Families Arizona and the Christian Family Care Agency.
Q: Who is against it?
A: Arizona Together, which state Rep. Kyrsten Sinema chairs; Gov. Janet Napolitano; Tucson Mayor Bob Walkup and his wife, Beth; Tucson City Council Vice Mayor Steve Leal; Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon; UA President Robert N. Shelton and former UA President Peter Likins; congressmen Ed Pastor and Raúl Grijalva; Pima County Supervisors Richard Elías and Sharon Bronson; Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall; several Tucson City Council members; and organizations such as Wingspan and the Arizona Public Health Administration.
Q: What are the surveys saying?
A: Harstad Strategic Research LLC, a political polling and strategic consulting firm, polled 503 Arizona voters earlier this month and found that 48 percent would vote against the proposition, 41 percent would vote for it and 11 percent were undecided on the issue.
PROP 107 WOULD:
1. Bar same-sex couples from entering into a legalized union.
2. Nullify current legal protections granted in domestic partnerships.
3. Not stop private companies from giving benefits to domestic partners as defined by the company.
4. Deny health benefits to partners of state, county and city employees who are not married. This includes: public school employees, city workers and college employees.
● Name: Protect Marriage Arizona
● What would it do if approved?
Define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. Also, it would mean that the state, cities, school districts, and others would have to revoke benefits similar to those of married couples for unwed couples and domestic partners.
● Main supporter: The Protect Marriage Arizona Coalition initiated the ballot measure.
● Main opponent: Arizona Together, a political campaign committee, has rallied against it with its “NO On Prop. 107″ campaign.
Know your vote
Visit these Web sites to learn more about who and what will be on the Nov. 7 ballot:
• Secretary of State 2006 General Election guide: www.azsos.gov/election/2006/General/ElectionInformation.htm
• Tucson Citizen Election Page: www.tucsoncitizen.com/ss/election_2006/23570.php
• Arizona Together: www.noprop107.com/
• Protect Marriage Arizona: www.protectmarriageaz.com/
• The Center for Arizona Policy: www.azpolicy.org/
Upcoming Prop. 107 events:
• Oct. 24: Pima Community College hosts a panel discussion on the propositions beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the college’s district office 4905 E. Broadway Blvd. Community leaders, attorneys and professors are among those who will sit on the panel.
• Oct. 24: Congressional District 8 candidates debate at Temple Emanu-El, 225 N. Country Club Road, beginning at 7:30 p.m. They include Gabrielle Giffords, Randy Graff, David Nolan and Jay Quick.
• Oct. 26: Gabrielle Giffords and Randy Graffdebate in the Flowing Wells High School auditorium, 3725 N. Flowing Wells Road, beginning at 7 p.m.
• Oct. 26: The American Civil Liberties Union and UA’s Pride Law, an advocacy group, are among the sponsors of a debate on Proposition 107 at 6 p.m. at the James E. Rogers College of Law, 1201 E. Speedway Blvd., in Room 146.
Sources: Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy; the Protect Marriage Arizona Coalition; State Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, chair of Arizona Together; the state Joint Legislative Budget Committee; Barbara Atwood, UA law instructor; U.S. Census Bureau