Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Ohio legislator introduces resolution to repeal state's super-DOMA amendment; another reflection on super-DOMA challenges

11/11/09 Politics Extra:

On November 8th, I prepared a summary of reported legislative efforts to reverse equality-marriage laws, and of state-ballot and legislative proposals to repeal constitutional bans on same-sex marriage (and civil unions.) I am tracking these developments here.

Here is an update. Poltics Extra reports that Ohio state Rep. Tyrone Yates has introduced a resolution to repeal state constitution Art. XV, Sec.11, a "super-DOMA amendment." Art. XV, Sec.11 is a super-DOMA amendment because it bans not only same-sex marriage, but also "a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance or effect of marriage."
As the Dispatch reported yesterday, the chances for an actual [legislative] vote [on the resolution] in May are slim.
Despite the long odds of such resolutions in super-DOMA states, is it premature to claim a new trend in long-term challenges to super-DOMA amendments? Do legislative resolutions like Yates', and Michigan Speaker Pro Tempore Pam Byrnes', open up a new means of undermining public support for suxh amendments?

I have already considered another, complementary type of long-term challenge to such constitutional amendments. In Ohio, Cleveland has risked a lawsuit over its adoption of "symbolic" domestic registries. El Passo represents the latest city in a super-DOMA state to at least consider a (more substantive) domestic partnership law for its employees.

I have made the debatable claim that these symbolic or weak laws can begin to change the terms of local public debate, even - or especially - when opponents sue the cities in question, or reach for a larger target, like Wisconsin. I base my argument, in part, on the history of what happened in California, where the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed the first domestic partnership ordinance in 1982, only to have it vetoed by then Mayor Dianne Feinstein.* That ordinance, though vetoed, set a groundbreaking precedent for subsequent domestic partnership laws in California, and these helped increase public support for marriage-equality legislation as the fulfilment of the right to marry.

*Elaine Elinson and Stan Yogi, Wherever There's A Fight: How Runaway Slaves, Suffragists, Immigrants, Strikers, and Poets Shaped Civil Liberties in California (Berkeley, CA: Heyday Books, 2009), at 340.

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