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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Florida Times Union: Marriage Protection: Not Needed

Florida Times-Union
Marriage Protection: Not needed
May 29, 2008

In a nation that separates church and state, let the various religions
determine their sacred rules for marriage; let the states determine
how to recognize the legal rights involved in civil unions, which
could include both marriage and unmarried couples.

Protect the sanctity of marriage without impinging on domestic
partnerships and civil unions. The Legislature is the place to do that.

This is an amendment whose time has not come.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Saint Pete Times: Gay marriage ban cheats the future

Saint Pete Times

A Times Editorial
Gay marriage ban cheats the future

In print: Friday, May 23, 2008

In 1948, the California Supreme Court led the way in striking down a ban on interracial marriage. Now, 60 years later, the court has issued another groundbreaking decision on marriage that, whatever its flaws, is likely to stand tall in history's judgment.

By a 4-3 vote, the court struck down a state ban on same-sex marriage, declaring that the relationship of same-sex couples must be granted the same "dignity and respect" as heterosexual marriage. It would have been better if the same result could have come from political consensus instead of a decision handed down by a sharply divided court. California already was far along in extending equal rights to gay couples. Before the court ruling, same-sex couples in the state had virtually the same legal rights as heterosexual couples. The only real difference was that their relationships were not recognized by the state as "marriage.''

The ruling, and a similar one in Massachusetts in 2003, suggest that maybe before another generation passes, our society will largely come to view the legal barriers to gay marriage the way we do those of interracial marriage — as a relic of a more intolerant time. Meanwhile, the California ruling is sure to reignite the political debate over gay marriage and energize efforts to change federal and state Constitutions to ban it.

Through a citizens' initiative, Florida's voters will be asked this November whether they want to amend the state's Constitution to add a ban on gay marriage and other forms of domestic partnerships. No doubt, the California ruling will embolden proponents of this measure. Already a number of states have responded to the gay community's call for legal equality for same-sex couples by slamming the door shut with constitutional amendments. And there continue to be calls for the adoption of a federal amendment banning gay marriage.

The shift in public attitudes on gay marriage is being driven by young people, including some who identify themselves as political and religious conservatives. As opposed to earlier generations when gay people were largely relegated to the closet, people under 35 have generally grown up knowing gay-led families, gay neighbors, gay school classmates and having been exposed to popular culture where homosexuality is seen as part of our diverse society.

Florida will come to accept gay marriage at its own pace. The worst thing we could do is lock today's attitudes and prejudices into the state Constitution by passing the ban on gay marriage in November.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Daytona Beach News-Journal: Gay Marriage- Elightenment in California; dark clouds in Florida

Gay Marriage
Enlightenment in California; dark clouds in Florida

May 20, 2008

Opponents of gay marriage make compelling arguments: Marriage has traditionally been between a woman and a man. State supreme courts that strike down gay-marriage bans, as in Massachusetts in 2004 and in California last week, are pre-empting lawmakers and the people they represent by imposing social policy. It's through the legislative process that most states have approved of civil unions that grant gays and lesbians the same civil rights as heterosexuals.

But every one of those arguments misses a fundamental point. Under the U.S. Constitution, equal rights and equal protection are not matters of interpretation according to tradition, popular will or even pragmatic compromise, which is what the civil-union argument is based on. Equal rights means equal rights -- not equal with caveats, not separately equal, not equal until deemed uncomfortably so. Equal protections apply to human beings regardless of creed, color or sex. The country learned to extend equal protections for all creeds and colors. It hasn't yet learned to extend that protection to sex. The exceptions in Massachusetts and California should be the rule.

California's Supreme Court was right to compare extending marriage rights to gays and lesbians to the right of blacks and whites to marry each other -- a right first recognized by an American state shamefully late, in 1948 (California), and not recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court until 1967. Some interpretations of religion, some ideas of tradition and, most of all, sheer prejudice aside, there never was a good reason to keep whites and blacks from marrying, although for centuries offensive conventions and equally repugnant legal reasoning dressed up the bans as natural law.

Just as bans on miscegenation are now seen for what they were -- evidence of past ignorance finally unlearned -- bans on gay marriage will, one day let us hope, be seen in the same light. California and Massachusetts aside, they already are in Canada, Belgium, the Netherlands, South Africa and Spain.

Florida, meanwhile, insists on treading backward. The November ballot will feature a proposed amendment to the state constitution banning gay marriage, even though state law already bans it, and the Federal Defense of Marriage Act, in effect since 1996, gives states the right to deny recognition of gay marriages executed in other states. The amendment would not prohibit civil unions or laws that confer some rights and employment benefits to individuals in gay unions. It would only, in the discriminatory words of the, organization pushing the ban, forbid laws designed "to treat unmarried relationships as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof."

In other words, it would ban treating gays and lesbians as equally as heterosexuals, without reserve or conditions. Unmarried heterosexuals could be facing legal discrimination as well.

The reasoning behind the gay-marriage ban sounds as compelling as miscegenation laws once seemed. The motive is no less repugnant.

"The right to marry," California Chief Justice Ronald M. George wrote for the court's majority last week, "represents the right of an individual to establish a legally recognized family with a person of one's choice and, as such, is of fundamental significance both to society and to the individual." Compare those words to those of Chief Justice Earl Warren in Loving v. Virginia, the case that overturned Virginia's ban on interracial marriage: "Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State."

Organizations like (formerly, propose not only to define marriage for everyone, but also to ensure that the state will infringe on one of the most fundamental rights of being human. Which is just the point in the end: Opponents of gay marriage don't see gays and lesbians as equals. And come November, to vote for that misnomer of a "pro-marriage" amendment is to vote for a modern-day version of the separate-but-equal standard that once applied to blacks. It is to endorse the view that gays and lesbians are a lesser breed not worthy of equal protection.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Palm Beach Post Editorial: How far, really, would 'marriage protection' go?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

You've heard Florida and Michigan mentioned together when the issue is Democratic presidential delegates. They are being mentioned again when the issue is bans on same-sex marriage.

Last week, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that the state's 2004 man/woman-only marriage amendment means that counties and cities cannot offer domestic partner benefits. Opponents of the so-called Marriage Protection Amendment, which goes before Florida voters in November, have argued that by placing in the constitution what state law already forbids, the amendment also would jeopardize those benefits for Floridians.

What are these?

Obviously, a Michigan court ruling has no power in Florida. Supporters of the Marriage Protection Amendment also note the differences between the two proposals.

The Michigan amendment read this way: "To secure and preserve the benefits of marriage for our society and for future generations of children, the union of one man and one woman in marriage shall be the only agreement recognized as a marriage or similar union for any purpose." The Florida amendment reads this way: "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."

In Michigan, the key phrase for the court was "similar union for any purpose," which is not in the Florida amendment. By a vote of 5-2, the Michigan high court ruled that the amendment linked marriage and domestic partnerships. Backers of the Florida amendment point to a 2006 Florida Supreme Court advisory opinion that their proposal does not intend to eliminate domestic partner benefits along with same-sex marriage, and thus would not violate the state constitution.

Still, like the Michigan amendment, Florida's same-sex ban contains the word "recognized." In the Michigan case, a key portion of the majority opinion stated, "When public employers provide domestic partners health-insurance benefits on the basis of the domestic partnership, they are without a doubt recognizing the partnership."

The Florida advisory opinion was unanimous, but it's still just advisory. The court always notes that allowing an amendment on the ballot doesn't indicate an opinion about the amendment. In Michigan, a trial court judge ruled that the same-sex marriage ban did not apply to domestic partnerships, but was overturned. And, of course, there was disagreement among members of the supreme court.

As all lawyers know, there's no certainty with any jury or any court. There's also no certainty about the possible reach of the Marriage Protection Amendment.