Vote No On 2 Campaign's Fan Box

Friday, October 3, 2008

TC Palm: Vote against Amendment 2

Joan Joseph: Vote against Amendment 2

BY JOAN JOSEPH Guest columnist
Friday, October 3, 2008

Most of us agree that this November's election is about change. We are looking to our leaders to propose new strategies to issues involving taxation, education, transportation and the environment, among others.

In this economic climate, we must ask ourselves what can be gained by supporting a constitutional amendment defining marriage that may have harmful consequences.

Amendment 2 would deliver the type of change that sets Florida back, rather than moving us forward. Its title, the so-called "Marriage Protection Amendment" may sound clear enough, but in truth the amendment does nothing to protect your marriage or mine. Rather, its vague wording, stating that any relationship "treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof" will not "be valid or recognized," could have injurious consequences for many people and for our state's future.

This "substantial equivalent" language can be used to threaten existing rights in several important ways. For example, it could force public and private employers to abolish existing benefits currently offered under domestic partnerships.

Rather than marry, some people choose to enter into domestic partnerships to protect important benefits and rights, including the ability to visit or make medical decisions for an ill or incapacitated partner.

Some people in domestic partnerships are elderly widows and widowers who have found love the second time around but can't financially jeopardize pension or health insurance benefits by remarrying. Others are young mothers who are raising families using survivor benefits — sometimes derived from emergency responders who died in the line of duty.

Regardless of your personal opinion regarding same-sex marriage, please know that Florida already has three laws banning it and a fourth that blocks same-sex marriages in other states from being recognized here. This amendment cannot legalize same-sex marriage, but it can clog our courts and threaten existing rights and benefits of Floridians both straight and gay of all ages.

Passage of Amendment 2 may have other disturbing consequences. When a similar amendment passed in Ohio, defendants charged in domestic violence cases against unmarried partners used it as a defense. Florida Legislature's Office of Economic and Demographic Research stated passage of Amendment 2 could result in fewer domestic violence convictions.

Amendment 2 also is bad for business. If Florida companies and municipalities that currently offer benefits to unmarried employees become targets of legal action, it could dissuade new job candidates from moving here. On the educational front, it could impede hiring efforts at the state's colleges and universities, contributing to the alarming "brain drain" already under way.

There are numerous compelling reasons to vote no on Amendment 2. It is an example of unnecessary government interference in people's private lives. There are more important priorities facing the state this November. Our focus must be to move Florida forward, not backward. Floridians of all political persuasions should vote no on Amendment 2.

Joseph, who resides in Jupiter, has been a community and political activist for the past 35 years. She is a member of the standing Rules Committee of the Democratic National Committee and a member of the electoral college.