Actions speak louder than words

Since it was introduced in January 2004, supporters of the proposed civil unions and marriage ban in Wisconsin have consistently claimed that it would merely “protect marriage” and not impact legal protections or benefits for unmarried couples. But history tells a different story. In 2004, backers of similar amendments in other states made the same claims. Yet two years later, many of these same leaders and organizations are leading efforts to ensure broad interpretations. The lesson is clear: before Election Day amendment supporters want voters to believe these measures are narrow; after the election, it’s a very different story.

That’s from a report by Fair Wisconsin, the coalition currently working in that state to defeat another so-called “marriage amendment.”

We’ve heard over and over from proponents of Virginia’s Ballot Question #1, like Attorney General Bob McDonnell, that the measure won’t affect private contracts between individuals, won’t be used to deny unmarried partners the provisions of domestic violence law, won’t affect health insurance benefits for anyone, and that really, it won’t change anything at all.

Funny thing: Voters in Wisconsin are hearing those arguments, too – so Fair Wisconsin did a little research and produced a very interesting chart. It compares the assertions made by the supporters of so-called “marriage amendments” in other states before they were passed, with what happened after they passed.

We’ve already reported on the case of Citizens for Communtiy Values, in which this group insisted before the election that concerns about the Ohio amendment’s impact on unmarried victims of domestic violence were “absurd,” only to later file an amicus brief in support of an abusive boyfriend’s claim that he couldn’t be prosecuted under Ohio’s domestic violence statute. His prosecution, CCV argued, violates the Ohio constitution because it recognizes the couple as having a “marriage-like” relationship.

Bait-and-switch, as it turns out, is standard operating procedure for those desparate to pass these amendments. When your true objectives are so unappealing, what else can you do? A few more examples from the report, Actions Speak Louder Than Words:

Michigan voters were told that the amendment had “nothing to do with taking benefits away,” was only to “define marriage,” and that it would have no impact on domestic partner benefits offered by public or private employers. “Every single person currently receiving any kind of benefit would continue to do so,” insisted the Michigan branch of the American Family Association. After the amendment passed? The Michigan AFA filed a lawsuit to stop Michigan State University from offering health insurance benefits to the unmarried domestic partners of employees.

In Ohio, the lead author of the amendment insisted that it would not affect state universities’ domestic partner policies. After the amendment passed? The same individual filed a lawsuit against Miami University to overturn its domestic partner policy, because it “mimics marriage.”

In Louisiana, a chief patron of the amendment said that it “has nothing to do with prohibiting contracts” and would not impact health insurance for domestic partners. After the amendment passed, the Alliance Defense Fund used it as the legal basis for challenging the city of New Orleans’ domestic partner policy.

The director of the Family Foundation of Kentucky said this of the amendment : “We believe that all of the suggestions that people will lose rights or benefits because it has passed are absurd. It is my belief that everyone who has rights and benefits on Nov. 1 will have those exact same rights and benefits on Nov. 3.” After the amendment passed the Family Foundation of Kentucky and lawmakers challenged the right of the University of Louisville to provide health insurance benefits to unmarried partners of employees. They also claimed that the people of Kentucky had voted against such benefits.

More Virginians are awakening to this duplicity every day. Contact the Commonweath Coalition today to see how you can help turn out NO voters on November 7 and be part of making history. 22 days to go.

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