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Monday, September 29, 2008

Central Florida Future: Amendment 2 Will Violate Civil Rights

Central Florida Future
Amendment 2 Will Violate Civil Rights
September 29, 2008
What do you get when you cross a turkey, a chicken and a duck? Turducken, maybe. What do you get when you cross a man and another man, or a woman and another woman?

According to the Orlando-based group Florida4Marriage, you get an inferior family who doesn't deserve the same rights and protections that are afforded to a "traditional" family of a man and a woman.

In the interest of full disclosure, Florida4Marriage is actually a coalition of organizations such as the Florida Catholic Conference and the Florida Baptist Convention, and receives most of its funding from the Florida Republican Party.

With that said, Amendment 2, which has been so cleverly dubbed the "Florida Marriage Protection Amendment," is attempting to set the state's gay marriage ban in stone by making it a constitutional amendment.

We unequivocally cannot allow this initiative to pass because not only would the amendment bring about an entirely new civil-rights movement against a blatant injustice, but also would, in effect, dissolve all civil unions in the state of Florida. Even heterosexual couples would lose their common-law marriage status, and subsequently forfeit any benefits that are shared with a significant other.

The state of Michigan passed a similar referendum in 2004, and the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that public institutions could no longer offer health insurance and other benefits to domestic partners. This means that divorced, widowed or just unmarried couples would lose all shared benefits, including health insurance coverage that is essential to the overwhelming majority of seniors in Florida.

Even the Orlando Sentinel editorial board had a rare moment of clarity and stated, "This amendment does more than just target homosexual unions. It puts all manner of domestic partnerships at a possible disadvantage … state law already restricts marriage to a man and a woman, and Florida doesn't recognize gay unions performed in other states. This measure seems more like a cynical attempt to bring out the conservative base in a presidential election year."
Don't worry though; it won't affect the UCF community because, unlike many public and private institutions in Florida, there are no domestic partner benefits for UCF faculty and staff in the first place. This has been a point of contention between groups like GLBSU and UCF administration for years, but it doesn't look like President John Hitt is willing to back down from his ultra-conservative foothold. Case in point: up until last semester, there were no provisions in the student non-discrimination policy for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students on campus. So if you're harassed for being homosexual, UCF doesn't (officially) care.

But if Amendment 2 passes, people like Rep. Sally Kern (R-Okla.) who think gays are the "biggest threat our nation has, even more so than terrorism or Islam" will start coming out of the woodwork here in Florida, and our state will begin to look like the peak of the bible belt.

California is currently in a position similar to ours. Proposition 8 was placed on their ballot this summer following the ruling in May to overturn the state's gay marriage ban by the California Supreme Court. Anti-abortion groups immediately went out and began gathering the signatures that they needed to get a constitutional amendment initiative on the ballot.

These "marriage protection" amendments are nothing more than political ploys to get faith-based constituents who don't normally partake in politics to go to the polls and vote for something they feel strongly about. Since they will be there already, why not vote for other conservative candidates and initiatives?

Sentinel columnist Scott Maxwell said it best in a recent article, "[We hear] more and more from people who tend to downplay the bulk of the Bible - which tells us to love and care for one another - [and] instead focus on the handful of passages they believe give them a license to discriminate." He also said that it's this continued negativity from the church that has caused the significant loss of faith in this country over the last several decades.

We couldn't agree more. If Christian morals and American values are at the core of this argument, then why isn't adultery on the constitutional-ban agenda? It was clearly important enough to put it in stone and declare it one of the Ten Commandments, yet we find religious groups trying to ban something that wasn't even on that list.

When you go to the polls in November, think about the widespread repercussions that this initiative would have on civil rights and senior rights. Don't vote for an amendment that would send our state back into the social dark ages.