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Hundreds in Tampa rally against gay marriage ban

TAMPA — For Bobbie Hernandez, it's about knowing that her children would be taken care of if something were to happen to her.

It's knowing that the home the 35-year-old has with her partner, Shar Ishee, would still be there for the family.

"And if I were in the hospital or something like that, I'd want to know that she and the kids could come and visit me," Hernandez said.

But if Amendment 2, the proposed gay marriage ban, passes, the couple think their rights will be denied.

Along with about 200 Tampa Bay area residents, Hernandez and Ishee attended a Sunday afternoon rally against the ban at Lowry Park. Organized by more than a dozen interfaith leaders, the event also included civic, local and state government leaders.

Those who attended the rally sat on benches, at picnic tables or on blankets in the grass, enjoying the pleasant afternoon.

"Despite all of our differences, we are all united in our opposition to Amendment 2," said Abhi Janamanchi, minister of Unitarian Universalists of Clearwater, at the start of the rally. "It promotes division and fear, not equality and love."

The amendment would define marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and would not recognize any other legal pairing.

Though Florida already has such a state law, supporters say the law could be overturned, as it was recently in Connecticut, or the Legislature could change it.

People against the constitutional change contend that the proposal will ban legal recognition and benefits for all unmarried couples, whether straight or gay. It could also adversely affect the state's large senior population, many of whom form domestic partnerships rather than remarry and risk losing benefits from previous marriages.

Those at Sunday's event also pointed to 2000 Census figures. They said Amendment 2 could affect 360,000 Florida residents, about 90 percent of whom are heterosexual.

Largo Mayor Pat Gerard told the crowd that it was time to stand up for "real family values" in the Tampa Bay community. She called the proposal an "intrusion" on her life and on the lives of everyone else who lives in the state.

When he spoke, state Rep. Bill Heller reminded residents that a ban on gay marriage already exists. The Democrat, running for re-election in District 52, said that the constitutional change would deny rights to many Florida citizens and allow "big government" to interfere.

"It says that it protects marriage, but it also denies the rights of people to make decisions important to them," Heller said. "We need to say no, emphatically, to Amendment 2."

As she sat and listened at a picnic table with her 11-year-old daughter, Ana, Ishee said the amendment won't change the structure of their family if it passes.

"It's not like it's going to destroy our family," Ishee said. "We love each other and will be together no matter what. We just don't think our rights should be denied."

Chandra Broadwater can be reached at cbroadwater@sptimes.com, or 661-2454.

Hundreds in Tampa rally against gay marriage ban 10/26/08 [Last modified: Sunday, November 2, 2008 7:31pm]
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