Daniel J.H. Greenwood

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Amendment 3: Radical and Wrong

Daniel Greenwood

Deseret Morning News, Salt Lake City, Sunday October 10, 2004

Should Utah become a refuge for parents fleeing child support obligations? Do “family values” Utah-style mean that children of divorced or unmarried parents have no right to support from their parents? Is this the way Utah should defend marriage?

I. Not Conservative and Not Right

Supporters of Amendment 3 to the Utah Constitution contend that it is necessary to prevent our lesbian and gay fellow citizens from marrying - even though same sex marriage is not legal anywhere in this country. This discriminatory purpose alone should be reason enough to vote against it.

Marriage is a fundamental human right, as our Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized. In Loving v. Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the old segregation laws which barred mixed-race couples from marrying were fundamentally unjust. More recently, in Turner v. Safley, it held that prisoners, even convicted murderers, have a fundamental right to marry.

If murderers can marry, surely law-abiding citizens should be allowed to do so too. It is as unfair and unjust to prevent homosexual Americans from marrying as it was to ban black and white Americans from marrying each other.

Defenders of Amendment 3 claim that allowing same-sex marriages would threaten traditional marriage. Traditional marriage is, to be sure, threatened. But the main threats are the death of the family wage, stressful working situations, and insufficient social and economic support for families. Allowing same sex couples to marry will have no negative impact whatsoever on heterosexual married couples. Rather, the main effect will be to increase the size of the voting block in favor of marriage and, of course, to support the children of our homosexual friends, relatives, and fellow citizens.

True conservatives will see that integrating additional people into the marriage establishment - not excluding them - is the best way to preserve marriage.

II: Supporting Marriage or Abolishing Child Support?

Even if banning same-sex marriage again were a legitimate goal, Amendment 3 is not the way to do it.

Amendment 3 is so poorly drafted that its full consequences are unpredictable. However, it is crystal clear that it will radically change existing family law in many areas having nothing at all to do with discriminating against lesbian parents.

Clause 2 of the Amendment states that “no other domestic union, however denominated, may be recognized as a marriage or given the same or substantially equivalent legal effect."

But current law recognizes many “domestic unions” and gives many relationships some or all of the legal effects of marriage. Family limited partnerships, common law marriages, divorced and reconstituted families, trust agreements meant to protect children from prior marriages, foster care arrangements, grandparents’ rights, hospital visitation agreements, family powers of attorney - all these “domestic unions” share in the legal effects of marriage.

Given the vastly greater number of heterosexual than homosexual couples in America, the main effects of Amendment 3 will be on heterosexual parents and their children.

Discrimination is wrong. Changing settled legal expectations, destabilizing the rights of property and radically changing our legal system in unpredictable ways is foolish. Amendment 3 is not only evil, but stupid as well. Let’s defeat it.