Gay couples demand freedom to marry listen02/14/08 SeÃ¡n Kinane
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Today, on Valentine's Day, a group of same-sex couples in long-term committed relationships attempted to file for marriage licenses at the Hillsborough County Clerkâ€™s office.
Instead, they held a religious marriage ceremony across the street at Joe Chillura Park.
Florida law denies same-sex couples the freedom to marry. But everyone deserves a right to marriage, according to tje Rev. Phyllis Hunt, senior pastor of Metropolitan Community Church in Tampa.
This November, an amendment will be on the ballot that would prohibit marriage between couples of the same gender, even though an existing Florida statue already does that. The Florida Marriage Protection Amendment â€œprotects marriage as the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife and provides that no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized.â€
At the Clerkâ€™s office, each couple filled out two forms and requested a marriage license. Couples of the same gender were denied, at which point they asked to be read the statute outlawing same-sex marriage in Florida.
Rebecca and Amanda Wonder were married in California, but were denied a marriage license in Tampa and that made them feel rejected.
Rebecca Wonder said heterosexual married couples receive about 1,500 rights, couples who canâ€™t get married donâ€™t.
Richard Skinner is also concerned that he and his partner donâ€™t have the same rights as couples who can marry.
The Rev. Hunt said it is â€œbafflingâ€ that some people are so concerned with forbidding same-sex couples from marrying.
In the park, 12 couples recited vows and made lifelong commitments to each other. After the marriage ceremony, Russell Fox told WMNF that it affected him more than he had expected.
Floridians will vote on whether to further restrict marriage rights in the general election on Nov. 4. The group Florida4Marriage organized the drive to get the amendment on the ballot. Florida Red & Blue is one of several groups oppose adding marriage restrictions to the Florida Constitution.
Photo credit: SeÃ¡n Kinane/WMNF