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Monday, December 31, 2007

Sun Sentinel Editorial: Amendment may change way you live

December 2007

Amendment may change way you live
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Are you a heterosexual Floridian who is, as some might describe it, "living in sin"? Are you and your significant other retirees who registered as domestic partners to ensure you wouldn't be denied the right to visit each other in the hospital? Or, are you younger or middle-aged, and have health insurance or other benefits through your partner's employer?

If you and your other half are a gay or non-married straight couple and receive domestic partnership benefits either through a local registry or through your employer, those benefits might disappear if the Florida Marriage Protection Amendment is placed on the ballot this November and enough Floridians vote for it.

The constitutional amendment is supposedly designed to prevent any of Florida's non-existent, pro-gay marriage activist judges from ruling against state law that already prohibits same-sex marriages or legal recognition of same-sex relationships "treated as marriage."

However, the amendment goes much further than state law, since it was also designed to prohibit any relationship Florida courts may decide in the future is "the substantial equivalent" of marriage. Of course this phrase was added specifically to challenge the only "substantial equivalent" of marriage offered by a few cities and counties in Florida - domestic partnership registries.

The amendment's backers claim they aren't interested in challenging domestic partnerships, and they even used a Stetson University family law professor to opine that civil unions and domestic partnerships are not substantially equivalent to marriage. But then, what "substantial equivalent" of marriage are they trying to prohibit?

When Broward County's domestic partnership registry was challenged several years ago, Florida's 4th District Court of Appeals determined that domestic partnerships didn't violate state law because they aren't "relationships treated as marriages," a ruling the Florida Supreme Court let stand.

But if the amendment passes, could Florida courts determine that domestic partnerships are the "substantial equivalent" of marriage? That's certainly the hope of the amendment's designers, who'd like to kill two birds with one amendment that reinforces Florida's ban on same-sex marriages and can also be used to challenge domestic partnership registries, to prevent those "living in sin" from receiving any benefit for it.

What they'd like to see happen here is a reoccurrence of what happened in Michigan, which passed a constitutional amendment in 2004 banning same-sex marriages and "similar unions."

Earlier this year, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that recognizing domestic partnerships "give same-sex domestic couples similar status to that of married couples," so such couples were not entitled to health benefits from local and state governments or universities. Since the ruling, several public employers in Michigan have rescinded their domestic partner benefits.

Currently, conservatives are seeking signatures to challenge California's domestic partnership law that gives all unmarried couples basic rights such as hospital visitation and making health care decisions. They got a judge to halt Oregon's domestic partnership law from taking effect Jan. 1, which offers hospital visitation and inheritance rights. They oppose Arizona's governor's plan to provide domestic partnership benefits for state employees and retirees. And they're pushing a bill in Kentucky that would prevent state agencies from offering unmarried couples domestic partnership benefits.

So, if the Florida Marriage Protection Amendment passes, will conservatives challenge domestic partnership registries and employer domestic partner benefits here in the Sunshine State? You can count on it.

If you're "living in sin," Florida's moralists hope to place an amendment on November's ballot that will challenge your rights. Don't let them. Reject the Florida Marriage Protection Amendment.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Ocala Star Banner: Solving a nonexistant problem

Ocala Star-Banner
Solving a nonexistent problem
December 29, 2007

Ban opponents maintain that the wording of the amendment could be used to deny couples, including heterosexual ones, and among them senior citizens who choose not to marry in order to keep their individual perks, of domestic partner benefits now protected by law. Gainesville is just one Florida city that allows couples, either heterosexual or gay, to register for that.

John Stemberger, who heads up Florida4Marriage, has blasted such arguments as "scare tactics." He even told the Tallahassee Democrat recently that his group wouldn't challenge laws protecting domestic-partner benefits. That's an odd stance for a group dedicated to saving so called traditional marriage: They're fighting tooth and nail to keep same-sex couples from sharing in the benefits - and trials - of marriage, but they are OK with heterosexual couples who openly choose to "live in sin." That speaks volumes about their real motives.

On Wednesday, Stemberger told the Northwest Florida Daily News, "Same-sex marriage inflicts a vast untested social experiment on children, and that's an experiment that we're not willing to take," adding that, "(c)hildren flourish better when there's a mother and father in the home."

If Florida4Marriage truly believed that, perhaps they should put as much energy and resources into slowing our state's outrageous rates of divorce, single parenthood and teen pregnancy - and not just target homosexuals. If so, we might find their efforts to rescue our state and culture, which now are focused on demolishing straw men in the form of gay couples, more palatable and worthwhile.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Tampa Tribune: Gay Marriage Not The Biggest Threat To Cherished Institution

Tampa Tribune/TBO.Com

Gay Marriage Not The Biggest Threat To Cherished Institution
December 26, 2007

Twenty-seven states have passed constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriages and next November, Florida could become the 28th.

But backers of the amendment shouldn't expect Florida voters, most of whom do not approve of gay marriage, to be exercised about this issue during an election year in which there are so many other important matters to talk about.

Gay marriage is last season's politics.

Besides, Florida already has a law outlawing marriage between people of the same sex, so formalizing a ban in the state constitution hardly merits front-burner status.

Florida law says a marriage made somewhere else between persons of the same sex is "not recognized for any purpose in this state." The language is clear.

Plus, there's the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal law that says states don't have to recognize gay marriages from other states. That law protects Florida, if the state needs protection, just as it does the other 49.

Yet Florida4Marriage, the sponsor of the proposal, has collected the 611,000 signatures needed to put the amendment, already cleared by the Florida Supreme Court, on the ballot in 2008.
It's easy to accuse the group of prejudice, as its critics have, but Florida4Marriage insists its purpose is to defend traditional marriage and its foundational role in a stable, civil society. The group says state laws are not enough when judges, with the swipe of a pen, can overturn them.
But the issue has also helped forge the political landscape. Republicans have effectively used the gay-marriage ban amendments against Democrats, who want gay votes but don't want to alienate the majority of voters who don't sanction same-sex marriages.

In 2004, when President Bush was up for reelection, 11 states passed marriage bans with vote totals averaging 67 percent. Two years ago, when the Republicans lost control of Congress, seven more states passed bans. However, Arizona voters refused to go along.

We're sympathetic to those who would protect traditional marriage as a sacred trust. These are people who fear for our culture and lament the loss of respect for the institution. But changing the constitution, when it hasn't proven necessary, is not the way to do it.

Americans have grown more tolerant of their gay and lesbian neighbors and are appalled by the violence and discrimination some have faced.

A number of state and local governments have responded by outlawing discrimination based on a person's sexual preference. And an increasing number of businesses are granting spousal benefits to homosexual partners as a way of retaining valuable employees.

Homosexuals should not be denied employment, public accommodation or any of the civil liberties enjoyed by Americans.

But marriage is not simply a civil rights issue. It is an amalgam of faith, values and tradition. Changing its definition is no trifling manner.

But make no mistake. Gay marriage is not the biggest threat to the institution of marriage. Bigger assaults are exposed by divorce rates and the growing number of out-of-wedlock births. Almost half of marriages today end in divorce. In Florida, one in four babies is born to an unwed mother.

To best defend the institution of marriage, we should quit looking for bogeymen where there are none.

North West Florida Daily News: Florida's marriage amendment

North West Florida Daily News
Florida's marriage amendment
December 26, 2007

The Florida Marriage Protection Amendment will establish one standard,
and only one, under which government will acknowledge an intimate
personal relationship. That standard, according to the ballot wording,
is "the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and
wife." The effect on couples and families could be profound. People of
any gender who've made deep, intimate, lifelong commitments to each
other - but without benefit of a marriage license - could find
themselves on shaky legal and financial ground. Domestic partnership
rights could vanish...

It's clear: The amendment aims to discourage all unmarried unions, gay
or straight...

Everyone who favors smaller, less intrusive government - especially
everyone who'd rather see government keep its nose out of our most
intimate relationships - should hope that the Marriage Protection
Amendment never makes it to the ballot; or that if it does, voters
will have the good sense to reject it.

Monday, December 24, 2007

FL: Anti-Gay Marriage Amendment Forced On Ballot To Lure Conservatives To Polls

Huffington Post
By Ron Levitt

FL: Anti-Gay Marriage Amendment Forced On Ballot To Lure Conservatives To Polls

Posted December 24, 2007 | 01:37 AM (EST)
Read More: 2008 Election, Anti-Gay Marriage In Florida Affects Campaign, Huffington Post Off The Bus, HuffPost's Off The Bus, Offthebus, Breaking Off The Bus News

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It hasn't even held its potentially irrelevant primary yet, but Florida is already being described as the hot spot in November's general election when a new initiative will be on the ballot - one that it is believed could decide whether the Sunshine State turns blue or remains red. The initiative - being sponsored by the conservative Liberty Council - is being called the Anti-Gay Marriage Amendment.

It has already sparked the question: Can any presidential candidate ignore Florida and this amendment, in light of Florida's major importance in November with its 27 electoral votes?

The proposed amendment to the Florida Constitution inched its way onto the Nov. 4 ballot when the Liberty Council in Orlando announced it has enough signatures to allow a vote. The proposal - offered by a group under the auspices of the Council - often referred to by detractors as a right-wing organization - defines marriage as "the legal union of only one man and one woman. " Supporters are organizing under the name

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The group says it has more than 611,009 signatures - collected over a three-year period - to allow registered voters to decide the issue. The signature requirement is believed to be the last step necessary for posting by the Secretary of State on the November ballot. The Florida Supreme Court has already ruled the proposal meets requirements by focusing only on one subject and "offering voters a clear and accurate summary."

The proposed anti-gay amendment was reportedly drafted by Anita and Matthew Stavor, founder and chairman of the Liberty Council. The organization says it promotes "religious civil liberties", but is often accused of being a pro-Republican interest organization.

The proposal will need a 60 percent majority to become a part of the state Constitution, and that will necessitate a huge turnout, thus possibly affecting Florida's 27 electoral votes.

The amendment seems to go even further than one passed in Ohio during the 2004 Presidential election - an issue that helped deliver the state's electoral votes George Bush and thus, the presidency. The Florida proposal, according to its opponents, will affect not only gay couples but also heterosexual domestic partners, legally recognized in some areas of the state, and will mean insurance programs, hospital visitations and death benefits, and other citizens' rights would be terminated. .

Florida Red and Blue, a statewide non-partisan group, has announced that it has been organizing to fight the proposal. "We are sad that Florida today is one step closer to taking away the existing rights and benefits from millions of Floridians," said Stephen Gaskill, spokesperson for the group. He added that his group is certain Floridians don't want government this deeply involved in their personal lives.

Florida Red and Blue - which has been preparing for the ballot battle for weeks - immediately put out a press release citing a Broward County (Fort Lauderdale ) legally registered domestic partnership of 24 years - Helene Milman (a Democrat) and Wayne Rauen (a Republican). "We just want to live our lives together and not have the government telling us our relationship isn't good enough to be recognized in Florida."

Rauen added, "When Helene was in the hospital, they wouldn't let me in to see her until I proved we are domestic partners. I don't understand why the government cares who I can see in the hospital and who I can't."

John Stemberger of Orlando, who heads Florida4Marrriage, said its amendment "will protect the institution of marriage." He added that even though Florida already has a state law banning gay marriages, this new measure - by being part of the Constitution -would prevent judges from overturning the statute.

Stemberger was also quoted in an Associated Press story saying: "Our research shows children do best when raised by a mom and dad. Dads are not optional."

That comment got a quick response from one newspaper, The Orlando Sentinel. It took an early editorial swipe at the proposal and its sponsors under the headline "Don't Drag the Kids Into This." It said the vote on the proposal should probably be based on "spiritual beliefs" adding that it was wrong to bring "the kids" into the arguments. It noted that the measure - "which is being supported by the Florida Catholic Conference and the Florida Baptist Convention . . . will affect unmarried heterosexual couples" as well as gay couples and was an "intrusion in private matters." It said if passed, it would affect insurance coverage and hospital visitations. It called the measure "troubling."

The announcement by the proponents of the amendment received wide play in Florida newspapers, but with different emphasis. In North Florida publications, it usually got front page attention, but in South Florida, it got minor play. In the most Democratic part of Florida, Fort Lauderdale's Sun-Sentinel relegated the story to an inside back page.

The Tampa Tribune quoted a former AARP director, Bentley Lipsconb, who said the measure - as drafted - would have a large impact on elderly couples, many of whom don't marry because it would change their Social Security benefits.

It is widely believed that the amendment may drive social and religious conservatives to the polls in 2008, possibly affecting some races, including the presidency. At the current time, some political pundits, believe, there is little motivation for conservatives to go to the polls unless there is a Republican candidate who measures up to their beliefs. That, of course, could change, depending on the eventual selection of the GOP nominee in September.

Opinions on this most recent "Marriage" amendment are obviously questions which will be asked of presidential candidates, especially during the few days between South Carolina's primary (Jan. 26) and the one in Florida, still scheduled for Jan. 29. But, insiders say it won't have much of an effect until the General Election in November.

Florida's primary date (Jan. 29) - still under review by a Federal judge - is, for the moment, the reason the State's vote is being called irrelevant by some political junkies. The Democratic National Committee has stripped all Florida delegates and the Republican National Committee has cut Sunshine State delegates by 50 percent - because of scheduling an "early" primary, rather than on Super Tuesday, Feb. 5.
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Monday, November 19, 2007

NEWS-PRESS: Florida marriage amendment intrudes in private matters

Guest Opinion: Bruce Diamond
Florida marriage amendment intrudes in private matters
Originally posted on November 19, 2007

If the proposed state constitutional amendment regarding marriage appears on the November 2008 ballot, it will represent another blatant act of political mischief.

It is the handiwork of those very same cynical forces that brought us the Terri Schiavo state and national tragic legislative debacles. It reflects a heartless indecency and indifference to real people and their lives for the sake of a perceived short-term electoral advantage. It is a Trojan horse that only pretends to protect marriage, but, if ratified, will do it irreparable harm.

What is more, a constitution amendment regulating marriage would mark an unparalleled state intrusion into the private lives of its citizens, and an abrogation of the bedrock ideal of liberty that is at the foundation of the American vision of a just society.

If there is any good that might come from it, even circumstantially, it will be from a re-evaluation of the government’s proper role in the regulation of interpersonal relationships in general, and of marriage in particular.

In our secular form of government, marriage has always been regarded by the states as civil matter and an expression of contract law. State statutes define the lawful parameters of marriage contract, indicating that the parties to the contract must be of lawful age, of sound mind, and not bound by another pre-existing lawful marriage contract. The state’s sole legitimate interest is to safeguard a number of important property and probate matters, rather than establish and enforce any particular religious definitions of marriage, which is constitutionally beyond its reach.

The time has come for the government to completely bow out of the regulation of marriage, among the most significant interpersonal relationships. It would be far preferable for individuals to enter into lawful marriage contracts, and, if they desired, to register those contracts with their local clerk of courts as is done now with deeds.

As long as the contract is properly drawn and executed, it can be entered into the public record without prejudice. When contested, challenges and dissolutions of these marriages contracts will be heard by local courts, as is the case with any contract. Of course, they would also be free to participate in any religious marriage rituals of their choosing, without government intrusion and interference.

Our constitution and its amendments express some very powerful ideals over two centuries of evolving legal and social consciousness. These ideals, such as the universal right of all citizens to vote, the abolition of slavery and torture, and the solely secular role of government, have required time and careful deliberation to be made more explicit.

Now the time has come to “unpack” yet another important ideal implied by our form of government. It must be the right of otherwise unencumbered residents of these United States who are of lawful age and sound mind to freely enter into interpersonal contracts of their own choice and design. Individuals must be free to follow their own conscience, faith tradition and best judgement in interpersonal relationships without undue interference by the state.

—Bruce Diamond is rabbi at The Community Free Synagogue.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Tallahassee Democrat Editorial: Marriage amendment discriminates

Tallahassee Democrat /

Back Article published Sep 29, 2007
Editorial: Marriage amendment discriminates

Floridians are currently witness to the time-honored but hardly honorable practice of creating the illusion of a crisis where there isn't one. Don't fall for the ruse.

This time its practitioners want us all to believe that the institution of marriage is under attack. Their straw man is gay marriage, and if it ever becomes recognized as valid and legal, they suggest that the pillars of civilization will crumble.

The best way to protect the sanctity of marriage, they insist, is to enshrine within the Florida Constitution new language that defines marriage as "the legal union of only one man and one woman," and further says that "no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized."

The Florida Coalition to Protect Marriage is close to collecting the 611,000 signatures that have to be verified by Feb. 1 to get on next year's ballot.

But guess what? Marriage between two members of the same sex is already illegal in this state, and only legislative action - highly unlikely in Florida in the foreseeable future - could change that.

Whatever side of the issue one may be on - and we respect the fact that many decent Floridians oppose gay marriage - the appropriate forum for debate and action is the Legislature, where statutory law is made. It is not the state constitution, which is intentionally much more difficult to change.

This is not simply a technicality of lawmaking. The average Floridian makes little distinction between a statute and a constitutional provision: Both have the force of law. A constitutional ban on same-sex marriage - the current cause celebre of the religious right - could have more far-reaching implications.

Opponents of the Florida Marriage Protection Amendment say a constitutional ban could not only keep gay couples from marrying, but also prohibit gay and straight domestic partners from qualifying for health-related and employment benefits. It could have particularly adverse effects on seniors, which is why former Florida Department of Elder Affairs Secretary Bentley Lipscomb opposes the ban.

It is, in effect, a sledgehammer approach to a "problem" that supporters have created in the wake of efforts elsewhere to legalize gay marriage. Enshrine a ban in the constitution and problem solved, they figure. As for collateral damage . . . oh, well.

Make no mistake about who's behind it., the organization supporting a gay-marriage ban, posts on its Web site a link called "Arguments for Marriage." Included among several articles are ones by James Dobson, an icon of the religious right, and Glenn Stanton, a policy analyst at Focus on the Family, the organization founded by Mr. Dobson.

More than two dozen states have taken the route that wants our state to travel, amending their constitutions to ban same-sex marriage. Arizona wisely rejected a similar effort last year, and Floridians need only to ask whether that state's failure to jump on the anti-gay bandwagon has resulted in a collapse of everything good and decent there.

You haven't read those headlines because it hasn't happened.

Don't be fooled: Enshrining this proposed amendment in our constitution would discriminate against some Floridians under a thinly veiled disguise that's not needed in the first place.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Our View: Say No To Bigotry

Our View: Say No To Bigotry

September 23, 2007,

Florida's proposed same-sex marriage ban threatens everyone's protections.

When misguided religious and political groups attempt to deny gays legal rights under the guise of protecting marriage, you better watch out for your own rights.

That's what is happening in Florida, as supporters of a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage try to get the issue on the November 2008 ballot.

Here's what the proposed amendment says:
"Inasmuch as marriage is the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife, no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized."
Here's why -- behind the legalese -- the amendment is dangerous and immoral, and should be rejected by voters.

1. It would write discrimination into the Florida Constitution, stripping gays of protections solely because of whom they choose to love or live with.

That's wrong, and makes it unconscionable that U.S. Rep. Dave Weldon, R-Indialantic, and state Rep. Ralph Poppell, R-Vero Beach, have endorsed the amendment, according to the Web site of Orlando-based which is pushing the issue.

The amendment is also supported by Gov. Charlie Crist, the Florida Republican Party, Florida Baptist Convention, Florida Catholic Conference and fundamentalist Christian groups.

2. It's unneeded, because same-sex marriage is already illegal in Florida, as it is in most states.
Supporters of the amendment say constitutional bans are necessary because anti-gay marriage laws can be reversed.

Or struck down by judges, as happened in one Iowa court in August.

But a Maryland court Tuesday upheld that state's law banning same-sex marriage.
That give and take shows that legislatures are exactly where the issue belongs. And where it should continue to be debated as society strives to make America's great promise of "equality for all" more than a catchphrase.

3. The amendment could have widespread consequences for domestic partners of any stripe, and their dependents.

That includes elderly Floridians of either sex who live together for economic reasons, but are unmarried.

Because the amendment "makes no distinction between heterosexual and homosexual, the only people conceivably not left stripped (of protections) are certain married couples," says Merritt Island civil rights attorney Mark Tietig, who opposes the amendment.

For example, domestic partners who receive benefits through some employers could lose them.
That's already happening in other states.

Ohio state Rep. Tom Brinkman has sued Miami University, a public institution, for offering domestic partner benefits, citing that state's constitutional ban.

If his suit is successful, one consequence will be that children of gay couples employed at the school will lose health insurance coverage.

A Michigan court has also ruled public employers can't offer benefits to unmarried couples, because of that state's constitutional ban.

The amendment further jeopardizes basic legal protections like inheritance rights, hospital visitation and medical decision-making rights for anyone outside its narrow limits.

It is, in short, a vengeful, bigoted proposal flown under the false banner of a religious cause.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Daytona Beach News Journal Editorial: Proposed gay marriage amendment lacks rationale

Daytona Beach News Journal


September 13, 2007

Proposed gay marriage amendment lacks rationale

Floridians have had enough of divisive politics over recent years ---- yet that never seems to stop people who have an ax to grind and plenty of money to force discussion.

As of last week, it seems likely that supporters of a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage will get their issue on next year's ballot., the group behind the proposal, has raised more than $500,000 (and spent most of that on direct-mail campaigns) and should have the required signatures by Feb. 1. But the group has yet to make its case for altering Florida's Constitution to defend against something that's already banned by state law. As worded, the amendment could also affect the rights of unmarried, heterosexual couples -- by saying that "no other legal union" can be accorded any of the rights of marriage.

Nor can the group provide rationale for the substance of their proposed amendment. Allowing gay and lesbian couples to form legally recognized bonds poses no threat to society. To the contrary -- it introduces the same stabilizing force that marriage provides for heterosexual marriages, along with the same legal protections. Under current law, homosexual couples lack the most basic rights, including the ability to stay by a sick partner's hospital bedside or negotiate custody of children.

Society is already recognizing the need to change. Many employers now grant insurance benefits to committed same-sex partners, and many states are including sexual orientation in the list of legally prohibited bases for discrimination.

Florida should move forward, though it would take action on the part of state lawmakers to make that forward step reality. This amendment, if approved by voters, would force the state in the other direction -- backwards, to a time when discrimination was not just allowed, but mandatory.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Saint Pete Times Editorial: Gay marriage rightly goes on back burner

Gay marriage rightly goes on back burner

Published February 16, 2007

Florida law already prevents people of the same gender from marrying each other, so a constitutional ban is necessary only if the objective is to draw moralists to the polls. To his credit, Gov. Charlie Crist says he wants no part in that.

The state Republican Party under chairwoman Carole Jean Jordan went so far as to dump $300,000 into a campaign to put the issue on the 2006 ballot. But the Florida Coalition to Protect Marriage came up short last year and will have to finish the job without party money. Crist's own protege, Jim Greer, is now party chairman, and the governor says he has other priorities.

Crist is showing his appealing pragmatism, preferring to redirect the debate from divisive social issues to the more pressing daily matters of insurance, taxes and public safety. "I'm convinced those are the kinds of issues that the people of Florida want us to focus on," he told reporters, "and I think it would be appropriate for the party to do the same, and I believe they will."
The supporters of the constitutional ban are miffed by Crist's directive, especially since he signed a petition. But they can't be surprised by either his populist priorities or his sensitivity to gay rights. He has said he supports the legal protections accorded by civil unions, and remarked in his Republican primary debate that: "I guess I have a bit more of a 'live and let live' attitude than my opponent does."

Same-sex marriage is being used as a political weapon by Republicans, but most Floridians are far more interested in safe neighborhoods and good schools. Crist is on the right track.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Daytona Beach News Journal Opinion Editorial: Baiting for bigotry

Daytona Beach News Journal

OPINION: Editorial
February 15, 2007
Baiting for bigotry
Gay-marriage issue wrongly used as a vote divider

Gov. Charlie Crist has said he supports civil unions -- but not marriage -- for same-sex couples. It probably wouldn't be a good idea to interpret Crist's recent pronouncement on the subject as a push toward further acceptance.

But when Crist said he doesn't think the GOP should waste any more money fighting the issue, it was a strong rebuke against the leaders of his own party. The anti-gay-marriage issue was more or less manufactured by Florida Republican leaders, who clearly expected to use the question as ballot bait to draw conservative voters to the polls. The numbers don't lie -- the state party ponied up more than half the money reported by, the advocacy group proposing a constitutional amendment "banning" same-sex marriage.

Florida doesn't need this kind of divisiveness, especially in the form of a question that starts out with an implied lie. Florida's laws already deny marriage to same-sex couples; there's no legal rationale to put the issue in the constitution.
That didn't stop Republican leaders, who also failed to consider -- or disregarded -- the bigotry and potentially vehement backlash that a gay-marriage amendment would be guaranteed to ramp up.

Crist's disapproval should be the finishing nail to this ill-conceived notion. The effort was already hamstrung by voter disinterest: Supporters angled to have it on the 2006 ballot, but fell short of required signatures and might not make it in 2008 either.

Instead, state leaders should start looking for a more rational and fair-minded approach, starting with a cool-headed look at civil unions.

A civil-union statute wouldn't give gay and lesbian couples the justice they deserve, but it would provide protections against many of the problems that beset committed same-sex couples. For example, gay couples would gain legal status to settle property and child-custody matters without lengthy, expensive and often painful court battles. It would be easier for same-sex partners to obtain health coverage -- a benefit some of the state's largest companies already extend to the partners of their employees. And lifelong partners would be able to make health-care decisions for each other, instead of being pushed away from the bedside of the person they love.

The state should also reverse its cruel and illogical ban on gay couples adopting -- a goal that's easily accomplished with legislation that elevates a child's best interests above all other considerations.

Crist could have taken a far bolder stand in favor of human rights for same-sex couples. But his statement still carries a lot of weight. Instead of justice, a cadre of GOP leaders chose division and rancor. Instead of priorities all Floridians share -- property insurance, public safety, education -- this same group is spending party money to exploit same-sex families for political gain. It's time to stop.

Gainesville Sun Editorial
Article published Feb 15, 2007
Feb 15, 2007

Hot buttons issues
When the Florida Republican Party poured $300,000 into an anti-gay marriage constitutional initiative two years ago, it was less out of a sense of moral conviction than a tactic to put Democrats on the spot over a hot-button issue. Even then-Gov. Jeb Bush said at the time that the initiative was unnecessary.

But the GOP's funding of had everything to do with politics and very little to do with marriage.

Now comes Gov. Charlie Crist, like his predecessor, a Republican. And to his credit, Crist has spoken out against GOP's funding a gay marriage ban campaign in next year's election. "I think people care about issues like insurance premiums, they care about property taxes, they care about public safety," Crist said this week. "And I think it's important that not only those of us in government but the party focus on those issues too."

Presumably, Crist's opinion carries weight with those who will decide how to spend his party's money. Imagine a political campaign focused on public policy issues "people care about," rather than on polarizing scare tactics that are intended to demonize opponents and divide the electorate.

We commend Gov. Crist for urging his party to "prioritize what we put our energy into."