102 would have constitution protect marriage - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

102 would have constitution protect marriage

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Posted: Saturday, October 18, 2008 6:56 pm | Updated: 11:24 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

The message is simple - perhaps as straightforward a ballot proposition as Arizona voters have seen in years.

Marriage definition heads to ballot

That hasn't stopped supporters of a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage from contributing more than $7 million to get it passed, $6.2 million of which was raised in a recent six-week span and much of it from the East Valley.

"Marriage is under attack by those who are creating substitutes to marriage," said Rep. Warde Nichols, R-Gilbert. "I think when this passes it's going to put to bed this debate once and for all."

Opponents of Proposition 102, however, say voters have already had their say and it's an insult to put it on the ballot again.

Two years ago, they narrowly defeated a gay-marriage amendment, becoming the first state to do so. Twenty-seven states have constitutional bans on gay marriage.

"They chose not to change the constitution," said Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix. "One of the reasons why they said no is because we already have a law."

The law prohibiting same-sex marriage, passed in 2004, has been challenged, and upheld, by the Arizona Court of Appeals.

But the 2006 measure that voters rejected was different: It would have banned employee benefits for unmarried couples, regardless of their sexual orientation. That complicated the issue for some voters.

Sinema and Proposition 102 opponents say a constitutional amendment is unnecessary because of the state law and the court ruling. Beyond that, the constitution should not be tinkered with, she said, to address narrow issues.

"Nothing changes either way," she said, if Proposition 102 passes. "Except that you put more junk into the constitution."

Supporters, however, say an amendment would protect marriage from politicians and judges who could undo the state law.

"Yes, we do have a law in Arizona," said YesForMarriage.com spokeswoman Kelly Molique. "But judges can change that at anytime."

Molique, a Scottsdale mother of two, said the measure doesn't discriminate against gays, or even mention sexuality. But she acknowledged it would keep gays from receiving the benefits of marriage.

"We're not addressing homosexuality," she said. "We're just addressing marriage."

Proposition 102 has been heavily pushed by religious groups, primarily evangelical Christians and Mormons.

Last month, more than 800 pastors gathered at the Arizona Biltmore for a strategy session on how to get the amendment passed. Pastors took home "Yes on 102" street and yard signs, T-shirts and voter registration packets.

And the long list of contributors to Yes for Marriage includes prominent East Valley Mormon families, who gave from $10,000 to $100,000 apiece for the effort.

Sinema and former Republican lawmaker Steve May, both former Mormons, held a news conference in front of the Mesa Arizona Temple last month to criticize Mormons for bankrolling the campaign.

"What the Mormon church did was tell its members to give," Sinema said Friday. "And they have, as is customary in the church, done exactly what they were told."

Supporters say the amendment takes politics out of the matter.

But it came to the ballot in a highly political way, and even prompted an ethics complaint against a state senator.

Beaten back several times in committee and on the House floor during the legislative session, SCR1024 finally cleared the Senate in the waning hours of the session without a vote to spare - and only then through a parliamentary move to have it reconsidered.

Sinema said lawmakers spent more than 100 hours debating same-sex marriage, but didn't call one committee hearing on the mortgage meltdown.

"They are wasting time on this issue instead of focusing on the real issues facing the state," Sinema said. "Do we really want to do this again? And don't we have more important things to worry about?"

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