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Advocate of Florida Amendment 2 challenged

TAMPA — Florida Family Association executive director David Caton was a popular guy at the Tiger Bay Club of Tampa luncheon Friday.

He was there advocating passage of Amendment 2, which asks voters to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. The meeting included candidates for political office, but Caton fielded most of the questions.

"What is it that bothers you?" asked longtime club member Mary Lou Tuttle, speaking of Caton's many crusades against gay rights.

Tuttle noted that she is divorced, and that many marriages end that way, without gays having the right to marry. So what's the beef?

Caton answered the question as he usually does: Allow gays to marry, and pretty soon people will be making equal protection constitutional arguments to justify polygamy, pedophilia and other condemned practices.

His main pitch Friday was that the amendment won't affect the rights of other couples who may live together but choose not to marry, gay or straight. He argued that a 2006 Florida Supreme Court case says as much.

Rebecca Steele, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney who worked on the case, challenged his account. She said the court merely cleared the issue for ballot, but did not rule on its potential effect. That will come later, when groups can use passage of the amendment to try to kill domestic partnership agreements.

She followed her statement by asking Caton if he would pledge not to work toward ending domestic partnership agreements permitted by some governments that allow unmarried couples — gay or straight — to share benefits.

Caton said he would not.

Bentley Lipscomb, executive director for Florida's AARP, argued that the amendment could hurt seniors who live together but choose not to marry for financial reasons.

"It is going to have more impact on heterosexual couples than it will on same-sex couples," he said.

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Bill Varian can be reached at varian@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3387.

Advocate of Florida Amendment 2 challenged 10/18/08 [Last modified: Monday, October 20, 2008 2:54pm]

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