12 January 2006

St. Pete Times mischaracterizes anti-gay amendment

Today, Adam Smith (email) of the St. Petersburg Times reported that that Republican Party of Florida has contributed $150,000 to the controversial anti-gay amendment [PDF - 95 KB] sponsored by the group, Florida4Marriage.org. The Times' Smith, along with Jason Garcia (email) of the right-leaning Orlando Sentinel, has simply regurgitated the GOP's talking points which state the amendment only bans gay marriage. Unfortunately for the credibility of these two papers, this characterization is incorrect.

Ironically, only the conservative Tampa Tribune accurately describes the amendment by labeling it the "Antigay Measure," but even this depiction omits the issue of domestic partnerships for unmarried heterosexual couples which would be banned under the proposed law.

While the organization Florida4Marriage.org states that their amendment is intended to only ban gay marriage, it goes a lot further than just attacking same-sex nuptials. In addition to marriage, the amendment would also ban civil unions between same-sex couples and domestic partnerships between hetero- and homosexual couples. Sadly, Florida4Marriage.org and the Republican Party refuse to mention the total scope of this constitutional amendment and are purposely misleading the voters of Florida.

If this amendment were to pass, many domestic partnerships granted through various counties and cities around the state would likely be nullified. And while domestic partnerships offered by private organizations, such as Bank of America, Chevron Texaco Corp., and Disney Worldwide Services Inc., will probably continue, they would likely be unenforceable through civil actions in state courts, essentially leaving individuals who encounter problems with their benefits without any legal remedy. (It would be interesting to see if this violates the constitutional right of access to the courts as guaranteed under Art. I, Sec. 21 of the Florida Constitution.)

The language of the constitutional amendment reads as follows:

"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." (emphasis added)

This language broadens the amendment to cover more than just marriage. Florida4Marriage.org says that it doesn't, but this is obviously a lie. While recent polls show a majority of Floridians oppose gay marriage, they also show that a majority supports equal rights for gay couples.

Florida4Marriage.org has obviously seen these polls, so they are only telling half of the story. Let's hope that in the future, the news media tells the rest.


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