California Ballot Initiative Seeks to Strike “Marriage” From State Law

By Justin Gardner | Related entries in California, Law, Religion, Sexuality

For years I’ve been arguing that the government should simply get out of the institution of marriage all together, and some folks in Cali are trying to put that idea into motion.

From The Herald:

California’s top election official gave two Southern California college students the go-ahead Tuesday to start collecting signatures for a proposed ballot initiative that would end marriage as a state-sanctioned institution.

Ali Shams, 22, a senior at the University of California-San Diego, and Kaelan Housewright, 21, a student at the California Institute of the Arts, want all couples to be eligible only for domestic partnerships, the designation now reserved for elderly couples and same-sex couples who can not legally wed.

The two friends, who say they are straight, submitted their proposal to the secretary of state in late December in response to the gay marriage ban that California voters approved in November.

Their constitutional amendment would repeal the ban, known as Proposition 8, and strike the word “marriage” from licenses, tax forms and other state documents while retaining the rights and responsibilities of marriage for domestic partners.

“The purpose of which is to provide equality amongst all couples, regardless of sexual orientation, without offending the religious sect,” the pair wrote in their application for an initiative title and summary. “Legally speaking, ‘Marriage’ itself would become a social ceremony, recognized by only non-governmental institutions.”

This is the type of compromise our country desperately needs on this issue. After all, the idea that government is essentially sanctioning a religious ceremony has always been a slippery slope, and this initiative addresses it a direct and honest way. And yes, there are some other laws that would need to be changed, but the ball needs to get rolling and solution has to be found. Now more than ever.

The initiative needs almost 700,000 signatures by August 6th so if you’re in Cali and you believe in this, try and find out how you can add your name to the list or volunteer.


This entry was posted on Sunday, March 15th, 2009 and is filed under California, Law, Religion, Sexuality. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

28 Responses to “California Ballot Initiative Seeks to Strike “Marriage” From State Law”

  1. Mike Says:

    For a while I’ve been thinking this is a reasonable compromise as well. However, as you mentioned I think it is an uphill battle since it’s likely to face opposition from both sides.

    Many gay marriage supporters might see this as a “scorched earth” policy. In the past, when I have brought up the idea in comments to blog posts, I have been accused of advocating a sort of “if marriage isn’t what I want it to be, then no one can get married” kind of idea. Although that’s not the intent, it is easily painted that way.

    On the anti gay marriage side, the initiative could be seen as “anti-marriage”, but that also is not true. It is only anti-government-sponsored-marriage. Also, as you mentioned, some laws would need to change. If only California did this, my understanding is that it would mean no one in California is eligible for federal marriage benefits.

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  3. shane Says:

    What are federal marriage benefits? Are we talking about things related to Federal taxes or Social Security?

    As for a solution, we talked about this on this blog and I’ve always thought it a very workable solution. Since I’m in CA, I’ll go find a petition to sign.

    Why did it take two early 20-somethings to get this going?

  4. California Ballot Initiative to Abolish Marriage Says:

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  6. Jason Says:

    The right wants to define marriage in a specific way, and keep that definition, then this is the ONLY logical response.

  7. C Says:

    What will this do to divorce law?

  8. Brian Cavner Says:

    I do not really see this as a workable alternative to inclusive marriage. First, as Mike suggested, the perception will be that “gays are trying to destroy marriage completely.” This criticism has already been levied at us enough without confirming the fears.

    Second, although the anti-gay marriage crowd bases many of their arguments in “it’s not about rights, it’s about the word ‘marriage’”, I doubt this is the reason that most opponents truly have. Even if states somehow get rid of marriage and recognize only civil unions, it would mean the next step would be to pass Constitutional amendments recognizing civil unions as only between a man and a woman. Same fight, different word, and (probably) the same outcome.

    Third, as Shane points out, federal marriage benefits would still be lacking. Even if California successfully switches over to civil unions for all, same-sex couples would still be excluded from federal benefits under DOMA.

    Finally, there will also be a problem with full faith and credit among the states. How will, say, Texas — a state with no such thing as civil unions — treat a California civil union? Will their laws consider the couple married? Will they only consider opposite-sex couples married? The solution is murky and ill-defined. California would be doing a disservice to its citizens by putting their current marriages in a state of uncertainty when traveling to the other 49 states.

    The civil union route might be interesting theoretically, but I see it as neither gaining enough support to be politically viable, nor working properly if it does manage to pass.

  9. eebs Says:

    It seems like the *better* solution is to eliminate the popular initiative process altogether. Little good has come of that process since perhaps the 1920s or the 1930s, and many more horrible things have come via the process since then. Take away idiots’ ability to eliminate minority rights, destroy the property tax system, and myriad other evil issues, and the problem is solved instantly. And you don’t run into the problems mentioned above, like Social Security benefits problems, potential issues with immigration sponsorship, etc.

  10. Smooth Jazz Says:

    I think this is a bad idea. There are a lot of state benefits and responsibilities that come with legal marriage. If anyone can get a marriage without really being married, then I’ll just say that I got married to one of my friends and enjoy lower taxes.

  11. Smooth Jazz Says:

    How about this for a compromise? Define marriage as a union between a man and a woman in state constitutions and allow civil unions for gays. Make it iron clad that the state supreme court cannot interpret this definition as a violation of the 14th Amendment, since equality is not at issue when marriage and civil unions are two different things.

  12. kris Says:

    Smooth Jazz, you my friend, have just brought the obvious into light-as a non religious person, it is hard for me to agree with any state-sanctioned action that states just because two people sign a document, that they get special benefits. Last time I checked, the US has no official religion, so what right did the gov have to even mention it in the first place? What about polygamists? Thats a man and a woman-can I borrow your young daughter into indentured domestic servitude for the purposes of procreation? The other five are currently pregnant… Screw your traditional values-those have left us where we are today. What we need is a community, full of actually equal members that are not simply dismissed as deviant when their relationship and private actions discomfort others. Id civil-union (CU-ing) my best bud-Cause then I would get a decent tax rate without compromising my sanity or the little money that I have!

  13. Plessy V. Ferguson Says:

    @Smooth Jazz: Marriage needs to be all-or-nothing — separate-but-equal accommodations are are proven failures.

    Incidentally, there is no loophole in the DOMA for unions not identified as “marriage.” Also note that it was authored by notable “Libertarian” Bob Barr.

  14. dur Says:

    I think this a good solution only if it is carried to its full extent…if not, its just a baby step.

    Right-marriage=man&woman. excludes gays, polygamists, interspeciesists?
    Left-marriage=m&m or w&w. excludes polygamists, interspeciesists?

    the implication is that there is a heirarchy from both perspectives, and they argue about who is at the top, and whether there is room for ONE more at the top (gays). However, nobody ever even wants to begin to say that polygamists or other lifestyle choices are OK as well, because those prejudices are still OK. currently, the government, conservatives, and liberals pass judgement on adult, consenting polygamists that their sexual orientation/lifestyle is wrong. this is the same kind of prejudice that gays fight, but neither the right or the left wants to admit it because there is nobody fighting the problem yet.

    my point is that fixing the marriage laws for gays is a small step in the right direction to actual equality under the law for all sexual orientations and family types.

  15. Kumo Says:

    I think this initiative is, in a word, awesome. 90% of the problems related this stem from the term ‘marriage’ being a religious one long before it being a legal one. Establishing a civil/domestic union between two non-descript consenting adults is the only way this will move in a more logical, less religiously driven direction.

  16. Smooth Jazz Says:

    @ Plessy vs Fergusson

    The sexual preference = race is the biggest propaganda tenet and canard in the world today. It’s as much propaganda as bonuses for failing banks are “retention awards.” So unless you are talking about the Civil Rights movement or racism, please stop trying to add homosexuals as a new race to society. Thanks

  17. Smooth Jazz Says:

    @ kris,

    Society may consider anyone deviant that they wish. I’m half black and half Chinese. If I go into the rural areas of the South, I’d probably be considered an abomination. So would our President. Guess what. I don’t care. I’m not going to go down in there with an army and force those people to accept me or the President and all mixed race people as something that they need to accept. You don’t want to accept me? Fine, there are millions of fish in the sea (300 million in the US).

    Same goes for gays. They are trying to force the American mainstream to INDOCTRINATE society that homosexuality is ok. If you want to do that, then do it on your own time. Launch a grassroots movement to gain the acceptance of the American people. Do not try to redefine marriage to legitimize what people consider illegitimate.

    Bottom line: let society make of people what they will. I won’t hold a protest outside a bakeshop if they don’t have a black man and a white woman on top of a wedding cake and you don’t try to redefine marriage.

  18. StayWoke Says:

    For more information on the CA Domestic Partnership Initiative, please feel free to visit their website and FaceBook page at:

    http://www.dompar.org

    and

    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=42833687407&ref=nf

  19. The Paradox Says:

    I think a lot of people misunderstand what “Marriage” is and what a “Civil Union” is. First off and most importantly, a civil union is not recognized as marriage in by the federal government, nor is it neccessarilly recognized by other states.

    http://www.bishca.state.vt.us/Civilunion/civiluguideweb.htm

    Civil unions, therefore, do no equal marriage. I personally think that this avenue SHOULD be the ultimate solution (Govt. gets out of the marriage business). However, it would be very ugly for everyone until the federal government replaces “marriage” with “civil union” in all of its laws that mention marriage and marital status. Otherwise any families with a civil union would only be stable inside of states that recognize it – and some things vary even between those that do.

  20. TankFox Says:

    @Smooth Jazz

    The entire point of this is that the government has no business in trying to define OR re-define the concept of marriage.

    The point is that the concept of one man one woman marriage is a religious construct and should be entirely the realm of the religious sector of our society; IE, not the governmental sector.

    The way marriage is used in a civil (read; government) context is to say ‘this person and this person alone is an extension of myself in all matters’. So go ahead, when this is law form a contract with your buddy for lower taxes. Of course, then your buddy can sign contracts on your behalf, have access to your children, and see you when you’re in the hospital. Sound good? Fine, do it. Oh yeah, if you and your buddy have a falling out he gets half your stuff. At no point do you ever have to actually have sex with this person.

    Nobody cares what you think about homosexuality. Nothing about ‘marriage’ or ‘civil unions’ has anything to do with where you put your dick. I am married, and nowhere in the entire process did anyone verify that I ever actually had sex with my wife. There is no difference on a fundamental level between the idea of ‘two men or two women can’t form a union’ and ‘a white and a black can’t form a union’.

    The only thing holding you back is that the idea of two men having sex makes you feel icky inside, while at the same time your very existence is testament to the fact that we have decided against the following people who think that a light skinned person and a dark skinned person having sex is icky.

    To bring it full circle, you call marriage anything you want. A-ny-thing-you-want. I don’t care. You keep your definition to yourself and your church and let the government recognize contracts between two consenting of-age adults regardless of RACE or GENDER.

    If you want to join a church that won’t perform the ceremonies of single sex ‘marriages’ then you go right ahead and do that, your church will fit right in with the ones who won’t marry no darkies to our white wimmins.

  21. No more “marriage” | abram's nickels Says:

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  22. DJK Says:

    For the record, I think gay marriage should be legal.

    That said, people who have an axe to grind against theism — or those who simply know nothing about world history pre-Christ — really need to stop making fools out of themselves by insisting that marriage between men and women is a religious construct.

    In fact, while it is indeed a construct, it is a civic and social construct that has arisen in secular, pagan, religious, and nonreligious societies worldwide, independent of one another, and throughout almost all of recorded human history. Indeed, anthropology has taught us that something nearly identical to marriage units existed well before recorded history.

    If you want to argue for gay marriage (as I do) go ahead, but please stop pretending that marriage or something that did not exist before churches. It simply is not true.

  23. Plessy V. Ferguson Says:

    @Smooth Jazz: as long as unions are distinguished by sexual preference/orientation/perversion, there can and will be institutional discrimination in favor of “marriage” over “civil union.”

  24. Smooth Jazz Says:

    @ TankFox

    The entire point of this is that the government has no business in trying to define OR re-define the concept of marriage.

    The point is that the concept of one man one woman marriage is a religious construct and should be entirely the realm of the religious sector of our society; IE, not the governmental sector.

    —————————–

    First a point on your word choice. You keep saying “the point” and then listing your opinion. Your opinion or your perspective is not a “point” or “the” point. It is just your opinion. Just having an opinion does not make that opinion somehow greater than other opinions.

    As for you OPINION (not “points”), the concept of one man and one woman is a social construct, not a religious one. For example, I believe strongly in such a thing and I’m agnostic. I’m not Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, Shinto, etc. So marriage is not just a religious concept as you claim. It’s a social concept, and society does need to protect itself. That is one role of government. So acknowledging the social concept of marriage is a necessary role for government.

    —————————-

    The way marriage is used in a civil (read; government) context is to say ‘this person and this person alone is an extension of myself in all matters’. So go ahead, when this is law form a contract with your buddy for lower taxes. Of course, then your buddy can sign contracts on your behalf, have access to your children, and see you when you’re in the hospital. Sound good? Fine, do it. Oh yeah, if you and your buddy have a falling out he gets half your stuff. At no point do you ever have to actually have sex with this person.

    ———————

    That is a functional definition of how the government views marriage. However, society views marriage as between a man and a woman, so there if you are making a libertarian argument, then it would not be consistent for you to argue that the government should try to change the attitudes of society by redefining the social concept of marriage.

    —————————————

    Nobody cares what you think about homosexuality. Nothing about ‘marriage’ or ‘civil unions’ has anything to do with where you put your dick. I am married, and nowhere in the entire process did anyone verify that I ever actually had sex with my wife. There is no difference on a fundamental level between the idea of ‘two men or two women can’t form a union’ and ‘a white and a black can’t form a union’.

    ———————-

    So everyone cares what you think about homosexuality, but not what people opposed to homosexuality think? That sounds a bit egocentric. Secondly, the government apparently does care what people think about homosexuality, considering that gay marriage has been banned in roughly two-thirds of the states.

    ———————-

    The only thing holding you back is that the idea of two men having sex makes you feel icky inside, while at the same time your very existence is testament to the fact that we have decided against the following people who think that a light skinned person and a dark skinned person having sex is icky.

    —————–

    The only thing holding me back is that gay rights activists are trying to use the courts to hijack this democracy, as was done in Connecticut. Most people of Connecticut oppose gay marriage, but supported civil unions, so they authorized that. The courts of Connecticut reversed the decisions of the people, and legalized gay marriage using the 14th Amendment as a pretext for it. If you want to know if something is holding me back, just ask me, and I’ll tell you. It’s dishonest for you to make up things which you think “hold me back.”

    As for my existence, I was born before my parents got married anyway, so I don’t owe my existence to the passage or non-passage of any laws regarding marriage. Again, if you want to know about my existence, it’s stupid of you to assume rather than ask.

    ——————

    To bring it full circle, you call marriage anything you want. A-ny-thing-you-want. I don’t care. You keep your definition to yourself and your church and let the government recognize contracts between two consenting of-age adults regardless of RACE or GENDER.

    ———–

    Of course I can call marriage anything I want, however I never talked about what I was interested in calling marriage, so that’s a strawman argument. Secondly, you again make the foolish mistake of making assumptions (that I belong to a church). I don’t belong to any church. It would have been less foolish if you had asked first instead of assuming. Perhaps you have just demonstrated that your assumptions that marriage is a religious concept is flawed, and thus your entire reasoning about the issue is flawed.

    As for letting the government negotiate contracts, I’m all for that, and if you weren’t misrepresenting what I said, you would have seen that. The government can negotiate those contracts, recognizing marriage as a union between a man and a woman, and a civil union between same sex couples.

    ——————–

    If you want to join a church that won’t perform the ceremonies of single sex ‘marriages’ then you go right ahead and do that, your church will fit right in with the ones who won’t marry no darkies to our white wimmins.

    ——————-

    Again, I belong to no church and I have no desire to do so. Since your position on the issue is based upon an opposition to the ideas of church and marriage, and I have demonstrated that my position has nothing to do with church and marriage, it seems that your argument is based upon a faulty premise and is therefore invalid.

    As for the churches that won’t marry “darkies to our white wimmins”, let them do that. Unlike you, I’m not going to ask the government to use violence to force them to think as I do.

  25. Smooth Jazz Says:

    @ Plessy v Ferguson,

    You dodged my argument. I am not arguing about discrimination or non-discrimination. My comment said that sexual preference does not equal race. That is a fact. A man is physically different from a woman. The differences between a black and a white are superficial. The vast anatomical differences between a man and a woman are not the same as the superficial differences between races, so the sexual preference = race canard is phony.

  26. Easy as Pi » Conservative Christian Site Slams Same-Sex Couple Option in Game of Life Says:

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  27. Timmy C. Says:

    Update: Libertarian party in California supports this Initiative:

    Libertarian Party of California Backs Domestic Partnership Initiative

    PANORAMA CITY, Calif., March 26, 2009 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The Libertarian Party of California formally endorsed the Domestic Partnership Initiative (DPI), a proposed state measure that would replace the word “marriage” with “domestic partnership” throughout the California constitution and statutes. The DPI was approved on March 9, 2009 by the California secretary of state for petition signature gathering.

    more here:

    http://www.globenewswire.com/newsroom/news.html?d=162043

  28. TrevorF Says:

    Do you think it adds more legitimacy to both sides by using the initiative process in California to change the marriage laws back and forth? At least it is the people voting on it as opposed to the state legislature passing it.

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