My turn: Marriage amendment hides perils for everyone

Posted: Friday, April 15, 2005

I'm writing to urge all Alaskans to tell legislators to vote no on SJR-10, the resolution in support of the Federal Marriage Amendment.

SJR-10 is quickly moving through the Alaska Senate, and legislators in both houses need to hear from us that this is not a good resolution for Alaskans, or for any Americans.

You may be generally familiar with the amendment, knowing it calls for a federal Constitutional amendment to say marriage is to be between only a man and a woman.

But the Federal Marriage Amendment text goes far beyond marriage as one man, one woman. Its second stipulation also bars "the legal incidents of marriage" from anyone who is not married. And that stipulation holds hidden dangers.

Supporters of that second point say barring the legal incidents of marriage from all but married couples is only intended to stop "civil unions" and other marriage-like legal contracts.

But since marriage grants over 1,000 federal rights, plus over 400 state rights as well, the call to ban the legal incidents of marriage from all but married couples puts over 1,400 rights at risk for everyone who is not married - heterosexual couples as well as same-sex.

How does that affect you personally? No one knows yet, but the tip of the iceberg is beginning to show, and it should alarm everyone of every political persuasion and of every sexual orientation, whether you're married or not.

For example, Ohio passed a state constitutional amendment barring both same-sex marriage and its legal incidents from all but married people. As a result, an Ohio judge recently threw out a case of domestic violence assault between an unmarried man and woman, saying domestic violence issues are an incident of marriage. Since the man and woman aren't married, he ruled the new Ohio state constitution's one-man, one-woman amendment made their domestic assault case moot.

We should all be alarmed. What else among the over 1,400 legal incidents of marriage will be denied all but married people?

Is the federal Constitution to become a tool for protecting married citizens more than any others?

Back to the Alaska legislature's support of the Federal Marriage Amendment, remember it's not necessary to define marriage as only between a man and a woman at the federal level, since Alaska (among other states) has already passed an Alaskan state constitutional amendment doing just that without the "no legal incidents" clause, fortunately.

A federal constitutional amendment is unnecessary and unprecedented. The federal Constitution is honored as a document that gives rights, not takes them away. Big brother federal government should follow its own centuries-old traditions and let states continue to regulate marriage in America (remember we pay the $40 marriage license fee to the state, not the federal government).

Please tell your legislators there are many reasons to vote "NO" on SJR-10. Not the least of which being that the Federal Marriage Amendments' "no legal incidents" clause is a Trojan horse holding unknown dangers for us all.

• Sara Boesser lives in Juneau. She has received numerous state and local awards for her human rights advocacy efforts.

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