The ADF and Gay Marriage Amendments
Ed Brayton printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed Oct 18, 2006 at 04:22:58 AM EST
The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) is one of the most prominent religious right legal groups in the nation. They are very active in fighting against church/state separation and defending a wide range of accomodationist programs. Like most religious right legal groups, they're also very active in the fight against gay rights in virtually any form, but especially gay marriage. And in a recent post on the ADF blog, they claimed that opponents of gay marriage amendments are making the "false argument" that such amendments could interfere with union contracts that give health or pension benefits to domestic partners and similar programs. They wrote:
Preying on these and similar fears, advocates of same-sex "marriage" argue that proposed state marriage amendments will undermine the ability of government and even private entities to grant benefits to unmarried people. This false argument is being used to confuse many people...

Same-sex "marriage" advocates argue that eliminating domestic partnerships or other counterfeit marital institutions is hateful and mean spirited, because it will undermine benefits granted to unmarried people. Unfortunately, many people (including some so-called "conservative" politicians) have bought into this fallacious argument.

I would submit that the only ones sowing confusion on this point are the ADF and their anti-gay allies around the country. And in reality, we don't need to make a hypothetical argument that these amendments could be used to try and do away with those kinds of benefits; they already have been used for that purpose, and by the very same people who keep telling us that they won't be used for that purpose.

For example, the Thomas More Law Center has been using the ban on gay marriage in Michigan to sue cities and universities, arguing that their domestic partnership benefits violate an anti-gay marriage amendment passed in 2004. And here's the kicker: one of their main attorneys, Patrick Gillen, was the co-author of that referendum while working with a group called Citizens for the Protection of Marriage (CFPM). The CFPM put out a brochure during the lead up to the 2004 election where they said pretty much the same thing the ADF is claiming now:

Proposal 2 is Only about marriage. Marriage is a union between husband and wife. Proposal 2 will keep it that way. This is not about rights or benefits or how people choose to live their lives. This has to do with family, children and the way people are. It merely settles the question once and for all what marriage is-for families today and future generations. (Emphasis in the original)

They made the same claim that ADF is making now, that this has only to do with the definition of marriage, not with benefits that can be offered to employees. That was a lie. Gillen then turned around and, working for the ADF, sued two cities in the state and Michigan State University, claiming that the very law that he told us would not affect such benefit contracts makes those benefits illegal. In July, when the suit against MSU was filed, he said:

Patrick T. Gillen, the Law Center's attorney handling the case said that MSU's policy is a transparent effort to circumvent the Marriage Amendment and state law. According to Gillen, "The constitution and laws of Michigan are designed to protect marriage and refuse recognition to same-sex unions, including same-sex domestic partnerships. Common sense and history demonstrate the enduring value of the traditional family, and its vital role in promoting the good of spouses and children, as well as the common good of society. MSU is not free to disregard state law to promote its own definition of marriage and use state funds to promote its experiment with the family."

But apparently, Gillen is free to disregard the statements of his own organization regarding the law he wrote himself. So who here is sowing confusion, ADF? Indeed, the ADF's double talk on this is rather staggering. Look at this report, which includes details about the battle over gay marriage in Wisconsin, where the legislature has retained the ADF to intervene in a state lawsuit about worker benefits. Here's what the ADF said about that situation:

Conservative lawmakers in Wisconsin also are seeking to block gay state employees from winning the right to employee partnership benefits. That state's Legislature last month approved sending a constitutional amendment to a statewide vote in November that says "a legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized in this state."...

The Wisconsin amendment passed partly in response to a lawsuit filed by several gay state university employees seeking health insurance for their partners. The Legislature also has retained the services of a conservative evangelical law firm, the Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), in an attempt to intervene in the workers' lawsuit...

The attorney representing Wisconsin's Legislature, Glen Lavy, senior vice president of ADF's Marriage Litigation Center, said that it was clearly the intent of state lawmakers and voters who approved these bans to stop employers or anyone else from treating gay couples like married couples.

Michigan and Wisconsin are not alone in this regard. It's happening in Ohio too:

In Ohio, state Rep. Tom Brinkman Jr. (R) filed a lawsuit against Miami University of Ohio in November 2005 for offering partnership benefits to gay employees, saying it violates the state's constitutional same-sex marriage ban. That case is pending in trial court.


And it's bound to get worse. Virginia is poised to pass the most broadly worded ban on gay marriage in the country. But as David Boaz points out at the Cato blog, gay marriage is already against the law in Virginia and this amendment goes far beyond just banning gay marriage. The amendment says:

This Commonwealth and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance, or effects of marriage. Nor shall this Commonwealth or its political subdivisions create or recognize another union, partnership, or other legal status to which is assigned the rights, benefits, obligations, qualities, or effects of marriage.

This language is about as broad as such an amendment can get. It requires all government agencies to refuse to recognize any contractual arrangement that carries with it any right, benefit, obligation, quality or effect of a marriage. That could mean no recognition of the legality of private custody agreements, private inheritence or end-of-life medical arrangements, or even recognition by public hospitals of private insurance benefits given as part of a union contract with a private company.

So what is going on here is legal doublespeak at its finest, claiming that such amendments don't affect domestic partnership benefits...right up until they pass. Then once they're passed, suits are filed to stop such benefits based on those amendments. The ADF and other religious right groups who back such amendments are speaking out of both sides of their mouths and gays and lesbians are paying the price for their duplicity.



No matter what they say before is not the same as after a propsal passes.  In Michigan they have used this law to take away health benifits, housing rights, job security.  They are doing everything they can to destroy what they call the powerful gay agenda.  The only agenda a gay person has is equal treatment and rights that are afforded under our constitution.

by bebemichigan on Wed Oct 18, 2006 at 04:38:09 PM EST

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