Critics: Same-sex marriage ban could affect others

10/30/07 Mitch E. Perry
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At the Florida Democratic Convention last weekend, political strategist analyzed a possible constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage.

Derek Newton is campaign manager for Florida Red & Blue, a bipartisan coalition fighting the amendment. He told an audience at Disney in Orlando that he expects the measure to get on the ballot, telling one questioner that it’s already been reviewed and approved by the State Supreme Court.

Newton said proponents have about 597,000 of the 611,000 voter signatures required by next February to get the amendment on the ballot, but that opponents have a legal team ready to challenge duplicate signatures and some from people not registered to vote, if the margin is close.

Nadine Smith is executive director with the LGBT group Equality Florida. She said the key to defeating the ban on same-sex marriage was to appeal to all Floridians that this new law will hurt more than just gays and lesbians.

Bill Vayens is secretary of the LGBT State Caucus. He elaborated on the unintended consequences of the proposed amendment would hurt all couples who are not married. He used the examples of his parents, who separated a few year ago, and now want to re-marry each other. But he says they can’t now.

Supporters of the Marriage Protection Amendment say they simply want to outlaw same-sex marriage. But critics say that such "narrowly tailored" laws in other states have opened the gates up to eliminating health care benefits and other protections for same-sex couples – gay and straight.

John Stemberger is chairman of Florida For, the force behind the Marriage Protection Amendment. He rejects the arguments made by advocates at the Democratic Convention that the amendment could affect straight non-married couples.

Stemberger says all his amendment does is codify existing federal law that bans same-sex marriage in Florida. But he does admit that in other states, there have been attempts to expand same-sex marriage bans.

If Florida For is successful in getting the required signatures on the ballot, Floridians will vote on the issue in November 2008.

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