Editor's Note: Justin Flippen, a life-long Floridian, is President of the Dolphin Democrats, Florida's oldest and largest LGBT political organization. He is also a candidate for Wilton Manors City Commission, on the ballot November 4th along with Amendment 2. Be sure to vote for him and NOT for Amendment 2!
Under the law, marriage is a contract. Under religion, holy matrimony is a sacrament. Separation of church and state principles do not permit government to regulate a religious sacrament. But the regulation of legal contracts is another matter and rests with the government.
A marriage contract grants about 1,000 Federal and 500 state reciprocal rights and responsibilities to the two people who agree to that contract. The Federal government only permits opposite-sex couples to enjoy these 1,000 rights and responsibilities, and most states only permit opposite-sex couples to enjoy these 500 rights and responsibilities. However some states have expanded granting their 500 rights to any two adults, regardless of their sex. Some states call their contracts 'civil unions' while others call them 'marriage.' One term places all couples on equal footing with the same name for their contracts. The other term appeases those who oppose any potentially perceived equality by creating separate but supposedly equal terms to these contracts - 'marriage' only for opposite-sex couples and 'civil unions' only for same-sex couples.
Do opponents of equality truly believe it best to deny couples who happen to share the same sex the rights of hospital visitation, joint property ownership, inheritance, or the ability to share health benefits? I doubt it. Yet here in Florida that is what we will decide with Amendment 2.
Under Florida law, same-sex marriage is prohibited four separate times. Amendment 2, falsely masked as a 'marriage protection' ballot issue, doesn't just reiterate what Florida law already says by defining marriage as between a man and a woman. It specifically would outlaw domestic partnership benefits or other legal arrangements shared between two unmarried people.
The language at issue in Amendment 2, apart from how you feel about marriage, is the following: "no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized." In other words, anything even somewhat equal to the legal contract of marriage would be null and void. Other states like Michigan where this kind of language was approved by the voters has inadvertently voided domestic partnership benefits in the state university system.
This amendment harmfully impacts everyone - a grandson who works for county government that affords him the ability to grant his ailing grandmother needed insurance and medical coverage or yes, those few gay and lesbian couples who feel they deserve the equal ability to share health insurance benefits too.
The folks who drafted the language of Amendment 2 were not interested in protecting marriage. As I said, it is already 'protected' under Federal law and 4 times under Florida law. Their deliberate intent was to bar legal contractual equality to the relationships of gays and lesbians. Whether you agree with this intent or not, their efforts of false pretense inadvertently went beyond their intent to also threaten the rights of a vast array of unmarried people.
As a Christian, I value my religious freedom and a religion's freedom to determine for itself its membership, its beliefs, and what sacraments it grants and to whom. Amendment 2 is not about infringing upon the rights of religion. It is about the explicit denial of legal contractual equality. Religion may retain its right to discriminate but not the government. And in the 21st Century, we must not abandon our wisdom and progressive practice of removing discrimination and inequality from our laws by now regressively putting them into the Florida constitution.
Please consider the ramification and power of your vote this November and vote NO on Amendment 2.
For information on Florida's Amendment 2, please visit www.SayNo2.com.