Tuesday, May 10, 2005

A Bit of Un-Noted News

Better late than never, I always say.

Whilst I was off cavorting for business purposes in Norfolk, Virginia, things were transpiring elsewhere that I just plain didn't catch -- among them, this heartening news from Kansas about its newly-minted state constitutional amendment barring gay marriage.

TOPEKA - The state constitution's ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions doesn't prevent local or state government agencies from extending benefits to gay employees' partners, Attorney General Phill Kline said Friday.

"It's my belief that they could, and we would defend them in that choice," Kline said.

Kline's statements contrast with a legal opinion issued in March by Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox, who said a similar amendment to that state's constitution prevents governmental entities from offering domestic partner benefits.

Critics of the Kansas amendment had argued it is broad enough to prevent government agencies from offering benefits to employees' unmarried partners, gay or straight, and perhaps could prevent even private companies from doing so. Supporters said such fears were unfounded.


As they were. If you look at the text of the two amendments, you notice vast differences in wording -- and that ultimately is the key to why such different results came about in ostensibly-similar situations.


Michigan

Article 1, Section 25. To secure and preserve the benefits of marriage for our society and for future generations of children, the union of one man and one woman shall be the only arrangement recognized as a marriage or similar union for any purpose.


Kansas (cited from my previous blogpost on it)

(a) The marriage contract is to be considered in law a civil contract. Marriage shall be constituted by one man and one woman only. All other marriages are to be declared to be contrary to the public policy of this state and are void. (b) No relationship, other than a marriage, shall be recognized by the state as entitling the parties to the rights or incidents of marriage.

For instance, if you look at the Kansas amendment, it specifically states that marriage equals one man and one woman only. This doesn't seem like much, but that strict definition is what helps it avoid the major pitfall of the Michigan amendment -- the "marriage or similar union" portion that generalizes the stricture of "one man and one woman" to block any other relationship from receiving benefits.

Furthermore, the Kansas amendment adds a twist -- it states specifically that the union of one man and one woman defined as marriage is the only arrangement entitled to the rights of marriage. Other unions, while they are not automatically granted (entitled to) the rights of marriage by fundamental law, may still have similar benefits granted to them on a statutory or executive basis without violating the amendment.

In short, the Michigan amendment defines what party (man and woman only) can receive benefits at all; the Kansas amendment defines what party can automatically receive benefits, but does not exclude any others.

The Kansas amendment is still antigay. However, its precision is definitely superior to the Michigan one.

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