National NOW Foundation Times  >> Spring 2008 >> Article

Domestic Partner and Marriage, Adoption Bans on November Ballots

By Melody Drnach, NOW Foundation Education Vice President

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Several ballot initiatives and state constitutional amendments this fall, as well as several state legislatures, will consider whether to restrict the legal rights of same-sex and other cohabiting couples, or limit their ability to receive equal benefits through marriage or domestic partnerships.

In California, signatures are being certified to place the Elimination of Domestic Partnerships Initiative on the November ballot. It provides that "only marriage between one man and one woman is valid or recognized in California." In addition, advocates of the "California Marriage Protection Act" gathered twice the number of signatures they needed.

This amendment to the state constitution, if approved, would define marriage in California as between one man and one woman, and prohibit the legislature from passing future pro-marriage bills that would expand the concept of marriage, while also stopping/reversing current cases that might lead to marriage rights for same-sex couples. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has said he will oppose any such amendments to the state constitution.

The Florida Marriage Protection Amendment seeks to ban same-sex marriage and domestic partner recognition and will be on the November ballot. This amendment to the state constitution would define marriage as the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife and would prohibit any other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent.

Same-sex marriage is already illegal in Florida, but passage would write this discrimination into the state constitution, preventing state judges from overturning the law to allow gay marriage and opening doors to lawsuits challenging domestic partner benefits of any kind.

Illinois voters may be asked to decide whether their General Assembly should propose an amendment to the state constitution to be submitted to the voters at the 2010 election. That amendment would read: "to secure and preserve the benefits of marriage for our society and for future generations of children, the union of one man and one woman in marriage shall be the only agreement recognized as a marriage or similar union for any purpose."

Oregon voters will chose whether or not to repeal the state's domestic partnership law giving committed couples the legal recognition necessary to care for one another. Voters also will decide whether to overturn legislation making discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations against state law.

Attacks Not Limited to Same-Sex Couples

These state ballot measures and constitutional amendments are being advocated as a prohibiion on same-sex marriage, but in reality most of them would ban any recognition or rights for committed couples who cannot or choose not to marry.

On a similar front, Arkansas voters could be facing the Unmarried Couple Adoption Ban which would ban adoption or foster care by anyone who is cohabitating outside of a valid marriage. Proponents of the initiative say it is necessary in part to "blunt the political agenda" of gay activists. Governor Mike Beebe opposes the measure because it would create "a rigid, blanket policy that does not allow full consideration for the circumstances of each child."

The Tennessee legislature is considering bills to prohibit public elementary and middle schools from providing any instruction or materials discussing sexual orientation other than heterosexuality and, like Arkansas, to prohibit gay couples and unmarried straight couples from adopting.

National NOW Foundation Times  >> Spring 2008 >> Article