Clergy protests Amendment 210/27/08 Emily Reddy
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Voters in California, Arizona, and Florida will decide in eight days whether to add language to their state constitutions that would make same-sex marriage illegal. Here in Florida, opponents believe the language of the measure could pertain to heterosexual unions as well.
Some religious groups have supported these constitutional amendments, but in Tampa a group of clergy led a rally Sunday in opposition to Floridaâ€™s Amendment 2.
A heavily same-sex crowd of about 500 gathered in front of a bandshell in a Tampa park. But the ministers and rabbis at the interfaith rally weren't gathered to support gay marriage, they donâ€™t all agree with it. But they do oppose Amendment 2, which would enshrine in the state constitution the definition of marriage as between "one man and one woman." The religious leaders argue the amendment would promote division and fear, and violate the separation of church and state.
The Rev. Phillip Miller-Evans ministers to the American Baptist Church of the Beatitudes. â€œThe suggestion of supporters of Amendment 2 that this will strengthen family values does not recognize the reality that our religious communities have no unified agreement about what defines traditional family values.â€
Many Florida religious leaders support the amendment, saying Amendment 2 would protect "traditional marriage" and that children are better raised by a married mother and father.
The Florida Defense of Marriage Act already makes it illegal for same-sex couples to marry in the state. Should Amendment 2 pass, the restriction would be added to the state constitution. Supporters of the Amendment say that if the language is not in the constitution, Florida could follow California, which earlier this year overturned state laws and began allowing same-sex marriages.
Opponents of the Florida ban, like Regional Director of the ACLU of Florida, Becky Steele, doubt such a reversal will take place in Florida and warn that similarly-worded amendments in other states have reached beyond same-sex unions.
â€œItâ€™s got such broad language, weâ€™re really concerned about the effect it will have not just on same sex couples, but also on heterosexual couples, couples of all typesâ€¦who have domestic partnerships and their benefits may be threatened and so on.â€
Floridaâ€™s amendment goes beyond the California amendmentâ€™s â€œone man, one womanâ€ limitation and adds that no other legal union that is treated as marriage or a substantial equivalent will be valid. Hence the worries about losing domestic partnership benefits. Some fear both same-sex and heterosexual couples could lose shared health benefits, hospital visitation rights, and the ability to make emergency medical decisions.
Vicky Shuster and her partner Dana have a domestic partnership. Theyâ€™ve been together for two years and have decided to start a family. Theyâ€™re afraid of the rights they might lose if this amendment passes, and say they would consider leaving the state if that happens. In the meantime, Shuster says theyâ€™ve taken some precautions.
â€œIâ€™ve changed my last name to be her last name so that we at least have the right, if something were to happen, and either one of us were in the hospital, we could possibly lie and say that we were sisters, cause at least we have the same last name. Thatâ€™s one of the ways that weâ€™ve protected ourselvesâ€¦â€
Marla DeFris is covered under her domestic partnerâ€™s health insurance policy. Sheâ€™s had eight surgeries for breast cancer and needs two more. DeFris is convinced if Amendment 2 passes sheâ€™ll be left without health coverage, with a pre-existing condition, and unable to work until she gets the surgeries. She also worries sheâ€™ll have to go through those surgeries alone.
â€œI want her by my side. I almost died in â€™06 because of an internal infection that I contracted from the mastectomy and she was right there beside me. And thank God for her. Well, this would prohibit her from being in the room with me. And itâ€™s just, itâ€™s just absolutely wrong.â€
According to the VoteNoOn2 website, other opponents of the amendment include the NAACP of Florida, the League of Women Voters, and the Florida Nurses Association. Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Florida's largest health insurer, has been outspoken in its opposition, saying the amendment could affect benefits.
Arizona voters rejected a similarly worded amendment in 2006 out of fear that domestic partners would lose rights. In Florida, 60 percent of voters must approve Amendment 2 in order for it to become law.