Monday, April 21, 2008

PA: Tricky constitutional amendment ("functional equivalent" of marriage); FL; VA


A battle over an anti-gay-marriage constitutional amendment in Pennsylvania, hyped in the media before Tuesday’s Democratic presidential primary (that has little to do with it), sounds a bit like the battle over the Marshall-Newman amendment in Virginia.

The Equality Advocates Pennsylvania “Take Action” Amendment is here. They also have a “take action” page and form letter here.

The text of this amendment S 1250 can be found at this link.

The critical wording is:
4 The General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
5 hereby resolves as follows:
6 Section 1. The following amendment to the Constitution of
7 Pennsylvania is proposed in accordance with Article XI:
8 That Article I be amended by adding a section to read:
9 § 29. Marriage.
10 No union other than a marriage between one man and one woman
11 shall be valid or recognized as marriage or the functional
12 equivalent of marriage by the Commonwealth.

That would seem to ban what we call “civil unions” (“functional equivalent” wording) too. However, many groups have claimed that it could prevent people from leaving estates to same-sex partners, or interfere with other rights from housemates separately arranged by contract or power of attorney.

For example, one law professor, Bridget Crawford at the University of Pittsburgh, provides this legal analysis (PDF), here.

The text of that 2006 house proposal to amend the constitution, similarly worded, can be found at this link:


The text reads

ONLY A MARRIAGE BETWEEN ONE MAN AND ONE WOMAN SHALL BE VALID
3 OR RECOGNIZED AS A MARRIAGE IN THIS COMMONWEALTH, AND NEITHER
4 THE COMMONWEALTH NOR ANY OF ITS POLITICAL SUBDIVISIONS SHALL
5 CREATE OR RECOGNIZE A LEGAL UNION IDENTICAL OR SUBSTANTIALLY
6 EQUIVALENT TO THAT OF MARRIAGE FOR UNMARRIED INDIVIDUALS.

There has been considerable litigation about a previously legislated gay marriage ban, as with this link:


As I’ve noted, Pennsylvania has adopted some particularly biting “pro family” legislation, such as in 2005 when it moved filial responsibility laws from the welfare code to the domestic law section, implying that adult children have a responsibility for parents comparable to what parents had for them as minors. So far this has not been enforced as far as I know. (See this link, July 12).

In other states, Florida has been trying to enlist senior citizens to support its constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage (AP story, Washington Blade, April 18, 2008, link here.

There is also an ongoing legal battle where a former lesbian partner from Vermont kept visitation rights when her partner separated and moved to Virginia, by Joshua Lynsen, March 19, 2008 link here.
The case will go to the Virginia Supreme Court. Here is the Lambda Legal link for the case, "VA Supreme Court Hears Interstate Custody Case".

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