By comparison to the Star Tribune's puff pieces on the state anti-marriage amendment issue, the Saint Paul Pioneer Press ran a relatively informative article last Monday:
The Pioneer Press discusses the 'legal equivalence' language present in the various proposed constitutional amendments, asking mumerous legal scholars what the effect of such language might be. The article points out that ramifications extend beyond same-sex couples to potentially include all unmarried couples — gay and straight.
Some of the areas were unmarried partners might be impacted or face legal challenges include:
- Health care and other domestic partner benefits (from state employers)
- Health care and other domestic partner benefits (from private employers)
- Domestic partnership registration (City of Minneapolis)
- Health care directives
- Insurance claims
- Adoption rights
- Nondiscrimination in employment
- Child support
- Other financial arrangements
- Other contracts between unmarried couples
But mostly, legal experts in Minnesota are hard-pressed to say what the reach of the amendment would be, because its language is broad and the courts haven't yet addressed the specifics.Kudos to the Pioneer Press for providing some fair and balanced coverage here.
"This is uncharted and unclear water," said Eileen A. Scallen, a law professor at William Mitchell College of Law.
"There are always questions that are going to end up before judges," added University of St. Thomas law professor Teresa Collett. "The question is what kind of guidance are the judges going to have when making their decision, and what level of authority will that guidance have?"
The wording of the amendment contains two sections that legal experts find especially thorny. One part would outlaw gay marriage "or its legal equivalent." Scholars agree this clearly seems to ban civil unions like those in Vermont, but no one is sure what else it might cover.