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.

10 January 2006

Is the McInvale defection bad news for Democrats?

As reported by the Orlando Sentinel, state Representative Sheri McInvale (D-Orlando) is expected to announce today that she is switching her voter registration from Democratic to Republican. According to the right-leaning Orlando newspaper, this should be seen as a blow to Florida Democrats, who only hold 36 out of 120 seats in the Florida House of Representatives. The McInvale switch would bring the minority party to 35, but one has to ask: Is this really bad news for Florida Democrats?

McInvale, who represents House District 36, has angered many Democrats in the Orlando area for her willingness to compromise what they see as Democratic values in a Legislature that is overwhelmingly controlled by extremely right-wing Republicans. While McInvale has been able to gain for herself the perks of being an elected official in Tallahassee (she is currently a Democratic vice chair of a House committee), she is often accused of forgetting the principles of those voters who sent her to the capital city.

The defection of McInvale may actually be good for Florida Democrats. The Party must start putting its members on notice that while it is fine to be independent, it is another thing to continuously stab your party in the back. Florida Democrats have forgotten this in the past. (The current leader of the House Democrats is state Representative Chris Smith (D-Ft. Lauderdale), whose rise to power followed his betrayal of the Florida Democratic Party and the endorsement of Jeb Bush for governor.) The removal of McInvale may actually signal that Florida Democrats are finally growing some backbone and abandoning their frat boy Yes sir, may I have another? attitudes.

McInvale's decision is not motivated by principle. Like most Florida politicians, McInvale is concerned with her own welfare, and it has been apparent for some time that her reelection in 2006 was less than assured. After facing opponents in the last two elections who had joined the races late, McInvale has been running against a young and energetic Democrat for months. Scott Randolph has been a candidate since October and has already raised $20,000 compared to McInvale's $30,000. McInvale has heard the footsteps, and her defection is simply the realization that the end is near. McInvale's decision should not be seen as a courageous act of principle. As I said before, self-preservation is her primary motivator.

By switching to the Republican Party, McInvale is likely ending her career as a politician. Due to reapportionment, the McInvale district is heavily lopsided, with Democrats outnumbering Republicans by a margin of 47 to 29 percent [PDF - 213 KB]. Republican voters literally have no say in choosing their state representative in District 36, and odds are that if McInvale switches her party registration, she is essentially writing her own political obituary.