Were Arizona’s Same-Sex Marriage Ban Opponents Deceptive?
November 15th, 2006
The vote counting for Arizona’s Proposition 107, the same-sex marriage amendment, goes on as absentee and provisional ballots continue to be processed. Interestingly, Prop 107′s margin of defeat has actually widened over recent days. Meanwhile, same-sex marriage opponents are starting to cry foul, claiming that the only reason Prop 107 failed is because Arizona Together “distorted” the issues. Leading gay-marriage opponent Maggie Gallagher complains:
You may beat a so-called gay marriage ban, as long as you never use the word “marriage” … or “gay.”
And the Scottsdale-based Alliance Defense Fund says:
Even in Arizona, the only state where a marriage amendment has apparently failed (defeat has not been conceded yet as many ballots are still being counted), opponents of the amendment have admitted that they had to distort the real issues in an effort to confuse the public.
The Center for Arizona Policy had intended Prop 107 to be a referendum on same-sex marriage — following the playbook in every other state where this issue has come up for a vote. By “distorting the real issues”, ADF is referring to the fact that Arizona Together built their campaign message on how Prop 107 would affect straight people.
But how is that message “distorting the real issues”? The Houston Chronicle begged precisely that question the other day.
When Arizona voters signed enough petitions to put a same-sex marriage ban on Tuesday’s ballot, opponents decided their best shot at defeating it was to shine a light on real people who would be hurt by Proposition 107.
If most of those real people were not gay, they said, all the better.
Here are the statistics. According to the 2000 census, there were 105,864 households with opposite-sex unmarried partners in Arizona, but only 12,332 same-sex unmarried partners. This suggests that opposite-sex unmarried couples outnumbered same-sex unmarried couples by a ratio of more than 8.5 to 1.
The Center for Arizona Policy, who wrote Prop 107 and got it on the ballot, clearly intended to target gay couples. But their over-reaching proposal would have hit far more opposite-sex couples than same-sex couples. And if many times more opposite-sex couples were going to suffer the consequences of Prop 107, how is it deceptive for Arizona Together to make that the centerpiece of their message?
The fact is, same-sex marriage was illegal before Prop 107 was put on the ballot, and it is still illegal now that Prop 107 has been defeated. Absolutely nothing would have changed for same-sex marriage regardless of whether Prop 107 passed or failed. And to argue that Prop 107 was needed to guard against activist judges, well I have to wonder where these swarms of activist judges in Arizona have been hiding. The very idea of it is ludicrous.
The only thing that would have changed if Prop 107 passed was the ability to create alternatives paths to some of the benefits for unmarried couples. Tempe, Tucson, Phoenix, Scottsdale and Pima County all offer some type of benefits to domestic partners of their unmarried workers. Tucson also has a domestic-partner registry that grants certain rights, such as hospital visitation, to those who sign up. Prop 107 would have take that away for far more straight couples than gay couples. This fact is inescapable.
If the Center for Arizona Policy (CAP) had written a “clean” proposition similar to the one that passed in Colorado which simply ended with their proposed definition of marriage and didn’t try to destroy other avenues for unmarried families to see protections and benefits, Arizona Together would have been left without a message. Or at least, their message would have been limited to gay equality, and that would almost certainly have meant that Arizona would have joined the other seven states in adding discrimination to the constitution.
But CAP’s careless shotgun blast at gays in Arizona would have inflicted far more “collateral damage” on straight couples. Arizona Together was just smart enough to point that out to everyone. Arizona voters, like voters everywhere, are just smart enough to vote for preserving their own interests. This isn’t deception. It’s the truth. And it’s nothing but sour grapes on the part of gay rights opponents to gripe about it.