Bil Browning

It's like living in an alternate dimension

Filed By Bil Browning | January 15, 2009 4:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics

Maybe it's because they spend all their time fantasizing about heaven, but the religious nutjobs pushing this session's proposed amendment to outlaw same-sex marriage and civil unions clearly don't a grasp on reality. After businesses and universities both cited domestic partner benefits last year as one of many reasons they opposed an amendment, proponents have come back with new language and new dpb-friendly talking points.

A quick look at recent history quickly shows why Hoosiers remain dubious of the religious right's favorite legislation. In fact, let's peek at some of their claims - past and present - and what happens when facts get in the way.

Civil Unions: A Fun Game of No-We-Don't-Yes-We-Do

Far right activists and legislators pushed for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and civil unions from 2006-2008. Proponents claimed the amendment would not affect civil unions or domestic partnership benefits. They defended the word "marriage" as unique and special while proclaiming they weren't homophobic.

In 2009 the Indiana Family Institute is leading the charge for an amendment to ban both same-sex marriage and civil unions. Legislative backers freely admit that they intend to target civil unions too, but claim domestic partner benefits will be safe. They gladly admit they copied Kentucky's amendment as proof the amendment is "safe" for domestic partner benefits. In reality, the Democrat Kentucky Attorney General issued an opinion that the University of Louisville was violating the state's amendment by offering domestic partner benefits.

When you stand back and look, you can easily see that while the religious right claimed they didn't want to ban civil unions and domestic partner benefits, they clearly intend to. This year's version automatically bans civil unions. They claim domestic partner benefits would be safe by lying about another state's history with a similar amendment.

In fact - here's the real story on Kentucky's amendment. Notice the similarities...

Kentucky's Same-Sex Marriage Amendment and Domestic Partner Benefits

2004: KY's amendment passes, Kent Ostrander of Family Foundation says it won't affect domestic partner benefits.

"Everybody who had any rights, benefits or protections yesterday have those same rights, benefits and protections today," Ostrander said. "And I would say, this is about a false right to redefine marriage for everybody else."

2007: University of Louisville and University of Kentucky continue to offer domestic partner benefits and boards of regents refuse to hold hearings on the subject. Republicans pass bill to ban domestic partner benefits in Republican Senate, Democratic House refuses to let it come up for a vote. Homophobes hold a rally at the state capitol. Kent Ostrander of Family Foundation wants to get rid of domestic partner benefits.

Kent Ostrander, executive director of the Lexington-based Family Foundation, said Kentucky voters in 2004 overwhelmingly supported a constitutional amendment that banned same-sex marriage. He said pubic universities would be flouting the constitution by offering domestic partner benefits.

"This is a constitutional crisis," Ostrander said, referring to UK and the University of Louisville, which decided earlier this year to offer domestic-partner benefits to employees. "It's not a time to shout, necessarily. But it's a time to bear witness to the fact that the people of Kentucky have stood for marriage, and do stand for marriage now."

2007: Democratic Attorney General Gregory Stumbo says domestic partner benefits are illegal under Kentucky's amendment, but says it's okay if they include roommates. Family Foundation still isn't satisfied.

In contrast, a spokesman for the conservative Family Foundation, Martin Cothran, told the newspaper that any method for granting domestic partnership benefits sets "a bad policy precedent," because "then we are getting the issue of universal health care in a back-door way."

2007: University of Louisville stops covering domestic partners. It expands eligibility for health care to "one other adult," but promises tax dollars won't be used to pay for their health care. Gays have to pay around $800 more than straights now. Family Foundation still not satisfied:

The Family Foundation of Kentucky, which has opposed the universities' plans, said U of L's new policy still violates the state constitution. "The new plan does not allow a mother or father to be on the plan, but it allows a live-in lover to be on the plan," said David Edmunds, an analyst for foundation. "This undermines marriage because you have to be unmarried to qualify. Just that in and of itself is discriminatory to marriage. ... It's still a domestic-partner plan. They're just trying to wiggle through loopholes to make it happen." Edmunds also challenged the assertion that tax dollars will not be involved. "When you add people on, you are going to increase the risk of that pool, and that increases the cost to everyone else," he said.

But the Facts Are the Facts. Right?

Apparently not.

Even when presented with the actual quotes by Ostrander and Stumbo, Indiana Family Institute leaders refuse to admit that the amendment will affect domestic partner benefits. They also refuse to say that the legislation would also also outlaw civil unions even though the amendment's sponsors freely admit it.

Perhaps it's time some of these religious nutjobs stopped focusing on the bit in Leviticus that starts "Thou shalt not lie with man..." and started paying attention to the ninth commandment. They're similar and start the same, but that's it.

The commandment stops after "Thou shall not lie."

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