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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Stemberger strikes back

28

October

Yes2Marriage.org leader and Orlando attorney John Stemberger released a letter accusing Amendment 2 folks of clouding the issue and trying to scare seniors with their ads that point out that Amendment 2 could threaten domestic partner benefits. Read the letter on the jump.

An Open Letter to Opponents of Amendment 2:
What Part about “Single Subject” Don’t You Understand?

By John Stemberger
State Chairman, Yes2Marriage.org
Just “Making Stuff Up”
The opponents of Amendment 2 in Florida want to talk about anything and everything except what the Florida Marriage Protection Amendment is all about. They want to talk about hospital visitation, benefits, domestic violence, social security, tough economic times, health care, Michigan, domestic partnerships, more benefits, putting government into your private life, alleged campaign violations and any other number of contrived focus group tested themes. But they absolutely refuse to discuss the driving force behind why 27 states amended their state constitutions by overwhelming majorities-- to protect the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. In fact, I can’t find a homosexual activist anywhere in this state that will debate the policy question of whether same sex marriage is a good idea for Florida’s children and families.

Trying to Scare Our Most Vulnerable: Seniors
After having been beaten badly in the marketplace of ideas in 27 states, gay activists had to think up a new strategy and a new message. The new message employed in 2006 in the state of Arizona was to not say a word about “gay rights”, “gay marriage” or even “gay equality”. The new pathetic strategy was to only say that the marriage amendment would “somehow” hurt senior citizens. And that it would take away “benefits” from unmarried persons. And they would say this new message over-- and over--and over again. And it worked. Arizona became the first state to ever lose a state marriage amendment by a couple of points. So this explains the reason for our opponent’s messaging in Florida, a state where one out of every five persons is a senior citizen.

Ignoring the Obvious and the Important
The disingenuous arguments being made by Florida Red and Blue, the ACLU and Equality Florida are really too numerous to address in one article. But all their arguments are tied to the idea that the language of the amendment will “somehow” (no explanation is given) do all these really bad things. But they never care to break out the Webster's to examine the words of the amendment language much less look at the existing legal cases directly interpreting the language. And they completely ignore the fact that the Florida Supreme Court has unanimously approved the language of the amendment! Interestingly enough, even though every single daily newspaper in Florida has taken a position against Amendment 2, not a single editorial has even referenced, much less analyzed, what the highest legal authority in this state has already said about the scope of the amendment. Instead, the newspapers have shamelessly taken our opponents reprehensible talking points and parroted them back to readers and in most cases, word-for-word.

Single Subject = One Thing
Citizen’s initiatives have the unique legal requirement of being limited to a “single subject”. If the amendment addresses more than one topic, or if the language is unclear and ambiguous, then it is struck from the ballot by the high court. I appeared before the Florida Supreme Court with Attorney Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel as he argued the “single subject” requirement at an oral argument court hearing. The high court quickly and summarily rejected the ACLU’s arguments, that the amendment would affect domestic partnerships and other benefits. Yet these are exactly the same arguments that our opponents are making now in the campaign.

A Little Honesty Please?
So, what has the highest legal authority in this state said about Amendment 2 that our opponents refuse to mention and the news media has never printed in a single news story or editorial position? They said this:

"The voter is being asked to vote on the single subject of whether the concept of marriage... should be limited to the union of one man and one woman."

“ The amendment essentially tracks the current language of the current statutory provision…inserting this statutory scheme into the constitution with language substantially similar to the statutory provision itself.” See Advisory Opinion to the Attorney General Re: The Florida Marriage Protection Amendment, 926 So. 2d 1229 (2006).

So Amendment 2 takes the existing law on marriage and places it into the constitution to prevent it from being redefined as it has been in Massachusetts, California and just recently in Connecticut. The bottom line is this-- if the amendment language did take away benefits then we would not be here today because the court would have thrown the amendment out as dealing with more than one subject.

The Substantially Equivalent Boogie Man
To ensure that existing domestic partnerships are not affected, Amendment 2 also prohibits any union that is the "substantial equivalent" of marriage. The words substantial equivalent mean "almost equal" or "virtually identical" and were found by the Florida Supreme Court to be clear, unambiguous and words "frequently used by the common voter". These words give the court a bright- line test to weigh the rights of "other legal unions" against those rights found in marriage. Existing domestic partnerships in Florida grant a very small bundle of 6-8 rights. In contrast, marriage grants hundreds of rights at a state level and 1,138 rights at a federal level. Florida's domestic partnerships are quite safe for the simple reason that their 6-8 rights could never be legally construed to be the substantial equal to the huge number of rights conferred in marriage.

So to all the intellectually dishonest opponents of Amendment 2 I say this: If you think that same sex marriage is a great idea, then fair enough--make that argument. But do not commit mass fraud on the people of Florida with deceptive and false ads advertisements about seniors and unmarried persons losing rights and benefits.

The opening words of Mat Staver’s oral argument before the Florida Supreme Court were these: “While most initiatives create something new, this amendment protects something old. It does not change the existing law but preserves the status quo.” Attorney Staver is exactly right. Amendment 2 does nothing new but only protects something that is timeless, longstanding and precious. For children, for families and for the next generation, please vote “Yes” on Amendment 2.

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[Last modified: Tuesday, September 14, 2010 5:41pm]

    

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