Wisconsin Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager sent two ballot explanations of the gay marriage and death penalty referendums to the state Elections Board Friday, providing the plain English translation that voters will use when they weigh in on the hot-button issues in November.
… Meanwhile, opponents of the proposed constitutional ban on gay marriage and civil unions praised Lautenschlager’s reading of the amendment question for pointing out its uncertain effect on joint benefits for unmarried couples. Supporters said it reflected Lautenschlager’s personal bias against the proposal.
State law requires Lautenschlager to produce the explanations, which matter both because they might influence voters and because they could play a role in later court decisions that involve the intent of the proposal.
… State law limits marriage to a husband and wife. The proposed amendment would constitutionally limit marriage to a man and a woman and ban civil unions and other arrangements for unmarried couples that are “substantially similar” to marriage.
Julaine Appling, who’s heading up the Vote Yes for Marriage coalition supporting the amendment, objected to Lautenschlager’s explanation of the “substantially similar” clause of the measure.
The attorney general’s explanation tells voters that it would be up to courts or the Legislature to determine whether that second clause would affect so- called domestic partner benefits between same-sex and other unmarried couples. Appling said only full-fledged civil unions or “look-alike” marriages would be affected by the measure.
As with Virginia, why should gays in Wisconsin be assured by Julaine Appling’s explanation? Especially when the attorney general’s explanation doesn’t say that the amendment will or won’t affect domestic partner benefits and other legal arrangements, but that it would be left up to the courts and the legislature? The courts are already getting involved in dealing with these over-reaching anti-gay amendments.
Georgia’s own amendment, which also attempted to prohibit other legal arrangements, was tossed out in court and the part of the judge’s argument focused on the attempt to rule out any form of legal recognition for same-sex couples, as well as saying that the amendment’s wording violated regulations intended to prevent “voter confusion.”
“People who believe marriages between men and women should have a unique and privileged place in our society may also believe that same-sex relationships should have some place — although not marriage,” she wrote. “The single-subject rule protects the right of those people to hold both views and reflect both judgments by their vote.”
And if it isn’t clear what they’re voting for, people who believe that same-sex couples deserve some form of legal recognition, rights and protections, might end up voting for a law that prohibits such. Especially if they take the word of anti-gay amendment proponents. What’s more they might end up voting for something that ends up hurting heterosexuals as well, like the over-reaching Ohio amendment that a judge said invalidates domestic violence protections for non-married heterosexual couples.
If these hastily-written, hateful amendment have unintended consequences (or are they unintended?) for heterosexuals, why should gay people assume there aren’t equally bad unintended (or intended?) effects that could be visited upon their families? Again, why wait for a test case? Why wait to be a test case, especially since by then the damage is already done no matter what the outcome?
Given the stakes, why take stay and take your chances?