A few weeks ago, the Rev. Manish Mishra of St. Petersburg and Jeff Marzetti of Fort Myers announced their engagement. They plan to marry in a small ceremony in June.
Their marriage will not be legal in Florida, but the men won't settle for anything less.
"Why would you want me to be satisfied with a secondary status?'' asked Mishra, 37, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of St. Petersburg.
"If two people love one another and are willing to make a lifelong commitment to each other, that should be honored and that should be respected.''
Opponents of same-sex marriage have proposed an amendment to the state Constitution that would ban gay marriages. Floridians will vote on Amendment 2 in November. The measure has engendered strong feelings, with conservatives and some religious groups on one side and liberal organizations on the other.
Tonight, a roundtable in downtown St. Petersburg will attempt to encourage reasoned discussion of the issue. The program is organized by Eckerd College, Stetson University College of Law, University of South Florida St. Petersburg and Studio@620. It's the fourth season of forums on controversial subjects.
"We are trying to build bridges between the white community and the black community, the gay community and the straight community, the religious community and the secular community so that all of us can learn from each other and appreciate the diverse community of Tampa Bay,'' said Bill Felice, professor of political science at Eckerd College and moderator of tonight's forum.
Mishra said it's "very disingenuous'' the way proponents of Amendment 2 have framed the debate about marriage.
"Marriage as an institution has never been this monolithic, unchanging thing for all eternity, for all people everywhere. ... In medieval times, people got married for property, for political alliances, but what we now hold today is love for the basis of marriage,'' he said.
Mishra added that Amendment 2 is "overly redundant'' and a ruse to rally social conservatives during a crucial election year.
A Florida law already bars gays from marrying.
"Supporters argue that a constitutional ban is needed to prevent legislators from changing the law or judges from overturning the law,'' Felice, the professor, said.
"Opponents feel that Amendment 2 goes way beyond banning gay marriage and threatens civil unions and domestic partnerships and will have detrimental effects on seniors.''
Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 892-2283.