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Marriage measure defended

OREM — Holding up a copy of the state's voter information pamphlet, conservative activist Gayle Ruzicka told students at Utah Valley State College Monday to educate themselves and make up their own minds about a proposal to ban same-sex marriages in Utah's Constitution.

"This is not about attorneys," Ruzicka said. "This is about you. Constitutional amendments are sent to the people."

Ruzicka was referring to Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, his two opponents, and other attorneys who have raised concerns about what they call the amendment's potential broad-reaching impact.

At a classroom forum, Ruzicka, director of the Constitutional Defense of Marriage Alliance, told students that Scott McCoy, campaign manager of the Don't Amend Alliance, used "bogus arguments" to create confusion about Amendment 3, which will be on the Nov. 2 ballot.

McCoy said his alliance is opposed to the amendment because of the wording of its second sentence, which reads: "No other domestic union, however denominated, may be recognized as a marriage or given the same or substantially equivalent legal effect."

McCoy said that wording is "legally flawed" and would hurt not only same-sex couples but the estimated 30,000 unmarried heterosexual couples living in Utah.

He indicated the amendment's effects could reach as far as preventing companies and state agencies from providing domestic partner benefits to employees and prevent the state from recognizing common-law marriages.

"This isn't as simple as what we've heard," said McCoy. A "no" vote, he said, means "we're not willing to step on the national bandwagon without putting a lot of thought into it."

Ruzicka said the amendment would do nothing more than "protect existing law," eliminate the risk of a state court challenge and strengthen the state's case in a federal amendment.

She pointed to the voter education guide's analysis written by the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel. The analysis says Amendment 3 does three things: define marriage as the union of a man and a woman; prevent any other domestic union from being recognized as a marriage; and prevent any other domestic union from being given the "same or similar rights, benefits and obligations" as a marriage.

The analysis also says "the scope of that prohibition may be more precisely defined by Utah courts as they interpret the provision in the context of lawsuits that may arise."

Ruzicka said voters need to "get educated, read and study. People being educated (on the amendment) is how and why we're going to win."

Some students attending the forum agreed with Ruzicka, at least regarding the point of learning more about the issue.

Marianne King, 19, said she's planning to do a lot of her own research on the issue after hearing the rhetoric presented by each side.

"I think the best thing is to read the information and make my own opinion," she said. "I see good points to both sides."