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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.