Judge says marriage ban initiative needs clarification

In a ruling hailed as a victory by those on both sides of the issue, a California judge on Thursday ruled that a proposed ballot initiative that would strip domestic partners of their rights needs more clarification before signature gathering can begin.

BY admin

August 19 2005 12:00 AM ET

A judge ordered
California's attorney general on Thursday to clarify his
summary of a proposed constitutional amendment that
would ban same-sex marriage in the state as well
as strip same-sex couples of domestic-partnership
rights. Ruling in a lawsuit brought by sponsors of the
measure, Sacramento superior court judge Raymond
M. Cadei ruled that the description the attorney
general had written to go on the petitions that will
be used to qualify the measure for the ballot could be
misinterpreted by some voters.

Gay rights
activists hailed the decision and pointed out that the
judge effectively upheld the language used by
California attorney general Bill Lockyer to officially
describe the proposed initiative. Proponents of the
so-called Voters' Right to Protect Marriage Initiative
also hailed the ruling as a chance to get a summary that
puts the focus on "protecting marriage," not
the stripping of rights from domestic partners.
Lockyer issued language that makes it clear that one
of the main impacts of the proposed constitutional amendment
would be to eliminate the obligations and protections
that California law now provides to registered
domestic partners.

Judge Cadei said
that Lockyer's summary and title were fair and impartial
and has asked for clarifying language regarding certain
domestic-partnership rights that would be eliminated. From
the bench Cadei said, "The initiative seems to put a
fairly large bull's eye on domestic partnership rights
in the family code."

The judge gave
the amendment's sponsors, the attorney general, and
representatives from gay rights organizations two weeks to
sit down and rewrite a version of the petition
language that all parties find acceptable. Once that
is done, the group VoteYesMarriage.com has 150 days to
gather the 598,105 signatures it needs to put the amendment
before voters in June 2006.

"Today's ruling
was in favor of truth and honesty in our election
system and a blow to the proponents' attempts to hide the
ball from California's voters," said Jennifer C.
Pizer, senior counsel with Lambda Legal and the lead
counsel for a group of organizations and individuals
that were granted the right to intervene in the dispute.
"Their intention is to not only permanently ban marriage
equality but this amendment would also strip rights
from registered domestic partners. Voters are entitled
to know that."

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