Clergy protests Amendment 2

10/27/08 Emily Reddy
WMNF Drive-Time News Monday | Listen to this entire show:

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 Florida’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 don’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. “The 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.”

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.

“It’s got such broad language, we’re really concerned about the effect it will have not just on same sex couples, but also on heterosexual couples, couples of all types…who have domestic partnerships and their benefits may be threatened and so on.”

Florida’s amendment goes beyond the California amendment’s “one man, one woman” 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. They’ve been together for two years and have decided to start a family. They’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 they’ve taken some precautions.

“I’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. That’s one of the ways that we’ve protected ourselves…”

Marla DeFris is covered under her domestic partner’s health insurance policy. She’s had eight surgeries for breast cancer and needs two more. DeFris is convinced if Amendment 2 passes she’ll be left without health coverage, with a pre-existing condition, and unable to work until she gets the surgeries. She also worries she’ll have to go through those surgeries alone.

“I want her by my side. I almost died in ’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 it’s just, it’s just absolutely wrong.”

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.

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Concerned Citizen

I am a long time listener of your station, and enjoy listening to the variaty your shows. As I was watching the election coverage Tuesday night, I felt moved by the fact that "The Dream", has now been realized in America, with the first African-American President being elected. I even had a tear or two in my eye watching the pure joy on the faces of the people they were showing on the TV. In no way do I want to take away from that, however, my rights, as a gay member of society just keep getting taken away. I can't help but feel like the gay community is the new target for Discrimination. I agree with one part of Amendment 2, and that is that "Marriage" should be between a man and a woman. However, I disagree with the part that states No other union that resembles a marriage will be recognized. For most of my life, I have been told by society and even some of my own family members, that I can not live this way, and that the love I feel is wrong. Frankly, I am SICK of it!!!!!! Now I have the majority of Florida Voters reminding me once again, that I will never have the opportunity to experience the feeling of being in a recognized union with my partner. Once again I am being told that I have no right to have benefits extended to my Life Partner, that would be if he were my spouse. I feel the need to let society know how it feels to be excluded from the opportunity to fully experience Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Hapiness!!!!! I can not believe there are people that feel the need to intrude or concern yourself with our rights that we are in titled to as citizen of the United States. Thank you for taking the time to read this, and please respond or contact me if you would like to!! George Vincent