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Already illegal for same-sex couples to wed
When voters vote on the ballot issues in the Nov. 4 election, they may be confused by Proposition 102, which seeks to put a provision in the Arizona Constitution about marriage.
The measure was put on the ballot by opponents of gays marrying each other, something that is taking place in some other states, including in our neighboring state of California. It would add a provision to the state constitution stating that "only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state."
The reality is that this is already the law in Arizona. By state statute, marriage is only between a man and woman and this constitutional amendment will not change the status quo on that issue.
What it does, though, is put the definition in our state constitution, a place where supporters of Proposition 102 hope it will be more difficult to change. However, even if enshrined in the state's constitution, that is not a guarantee. Voters can take it out just as they can put it in.
But supporters are fearful that if this is not done, then lawmakers will change the law to allow gay marriages, as has happened in some other states.
A similar measure was rejected by voters in 2006, but that earlier proposition also prohibited recognition of civil unions involving gays and giving of benefits to domestic partners. Whether these changes will make a difference, is not yet known.
In our view, marriage is essentially a religious issue and not a civil issue.
Of course, some civil aspects have evolved over time due to "contract" issues - how to divide property, for example, or to determine parental rights. These legal issues require a need to record who is married, but from a legal standpoint it does not really matter whether the two parties are of different sexes or not.
On the other hand, religious groups have an inherent interest in saying who can marry and who cannot. It is part of their religious tradition and law. They have every right to do that and the government should not intervene as long as it does no harm to others. That is why we have religious freedom.
However, why should the government tell free people who they can marry and who they cannot unite with? That is a fundamental intrusion on individual rights.
For a shameful period of time in our nation, interracial marriage was forbidden. We now know that was abominably wrong. That illustrates, however, the dangerous path one treads when you allow the government to define "proper" marriage.
It is best to keep the government as far removed from marriage as possible, and we therefore cannot support Proposition 102, or the statutory limitation that currently exists.