Florida Today - "Say No to Bigotry"

Editorial: Florida Today

September 23, 2007

Our view: Say no to bigotry

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.

• 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 Florida4Marriage.org. 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.

• 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.

• 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.


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