Activists debate Prop. 107

Wayne Yehling, a family law attorney, shares his views on Proposition 107 in the James E. Rogers College of Law building yesterday. The debate gave attendees a chance to view the best of both sides of the proposition.

Protect Marriage Arizona is a ""war of the rings,"" said the president of the Marriage Law Foundation at a debate on Proposition 107 last night.

Jonathan Millet, a third-year law student and president of the Federalist Society, said the debate at the James E. Rogers College of Law was an opportunity to ""present the best sides on both sides"" to help people make up their minds about the proposition.

There has not been much said on the part of those who support Prop. 107, said Jill Holt, a second-year law student and vice president of Pride Law Alliance, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy group at the College of Law.

""Like in a court, both sides bring their best arguments, and what's supposed to emerge is the truth,"" Millet said. ""We might change some peoples' minds. We may not.""

Monty Stewart, an attorney and president of the Utah-based Marriage Law Foundation, asked the audience how they define marriage.

""Is it one man and one woman, or is it genderless?"" Stewart asked. ""It has been called cleverly and aptly 'the war of the rings.'""

Stewart described the proven benefits to children being raised in a one-father and one-mother household and pointed out the historic definition of marriage.

""Across time and cultures, the meaning has been that marriage is one man and one woman,"" Stewart said. ""Every society can only have one socially institutionalized definition of marriage, and come Nov. 11, that's what you folks in Arizona will be doing.""

Wayne Yehling, a family law attorney, followed Stewart's address with his legal views on the proposition.

""Gay marriage is illegal in Arizona,"" Yehling said. ""It is the law of the states. Arizona won't recognize the same-sex marriage of another state.""

""Why are we voting on that when in fact it is already illegal in Arizona and the issue is settled?"" Yehling asked.

It is the second part of the proposition that deserves debate, Yehling said.

The proposition would amend the state constitution to state that ""no legal status for unmarried persons shall be created or recognized by this state or its political subdivisions that is similar to that of marriage.""

This provision would eliminate the option of domestic partner registration, even for elderly people who do not want to marry a new partner for fear of losing pension benefits from their deceased partner, Yehling said.

""The amendment is something that all major world cultures have taken to be the definition of marriage,"" said Jordan Lorence, attorney for the Alliance Defense Fund.

Lorence said people should vote for the proposition because defining marriage as between only a man and a woman is a common good.

""Stop judicial activism, don't let judges impose laws on us,"" he said.

Cindy Jordan, chairman of the ""No"" on Prop. 107 campaign, said the proposition doesn't protect marriage at all.

Len Munsil knew his chances against Gov. Janet Napolitano, who had a 70 percent approval rate were not strong, so he became a large sponsor of Prop. 107 to boost his popularity, Jordan said.

Jordan compared Lorence's rationalization of the proposition to the rationalizations made by judges who outlawed interracial marriages.

""Sound familiar?"" Jordan said. ""The creators of the proposition are completely out of touch with the evolution of the American family.""

The debate continued with rebuttals and a question-and-answer period rife with both applause and booing.

""A goal of the law school is to promote intelligent debate in all subjects,"" Holt said. ""The debate is a forum for people to come and inform themselves.""

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