Vote No On 2 Campaign's Fan Box

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

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

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

* Email
* Print

Buzz up!on Yahoo!

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.
Comments for this post are now closed