One of the more depressing ballot initiatives coming up for a vote in November comes from Virginia. Voters there will have a chance to pass a "marriage amendment" designed to define marriage as a deal between one man and one woman. But in fact the legislation would do much more, all of it stupid and ugly:
The proposal also forbids the Commonwealth and its subdivisions from creating or recognizing "another union, partnership, or other legal status to which is assigned the rights, benefits, obligations, qualities, or effects of marriage." Nobody knows what that sentence means. At the very least it means there could never be any kind of recognition for legally defined civil unions or domestic partnerships for gay couples….
More troubling is the effect the amendment might have on private arrangements such as domestic partnership health benefits now widely offered by major employers in Virginia. A typical partnership-benefit program requires the individuals involved to demonstrate a joint household and economic interdependence to prove their "partnership." The benefits conferred often parallel those for married employees. It would be a rational legal conclusion that such programs create either a "partnership" or a "legal status" that Virginia's courts could not recognize.
Even private contracts cannot violate the Commonwealth's public policy and it is not inconceivable that the courts could read the new amendment broadly enough to create a public policy against such contracts.
If this sort of proposed law moves you to anger (and especially if you live in the Old Dominion), go here for more information.