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When we deny rights, we give up rights

By forbidding gay and lesbian residents from either marrying or adopting children, Florida law bans them from forming families — at least legally recognized ones.

Think about that, and tell me it's not the most outrageous civil rights violation inflicted on any group of citizens in our state.

Think about this, too: It's not just unfair to them; it's harmful to all of us, because marriage and family are the building blocks of citizenship.

On this point — and, let me be clear, on this point only — I agree with Yes2Marriage, the organization pushing the proposed constitutional ban on gay marriage that will appear on the November ballot.

"We believe that the institution of marriage serves both a personal and a public purpose within our society,'' the group's Web site says. "As such, public policy should promote healthy and strong marriages.''

Exactly right. This is not to say, of course, that single and childless people don't care about community. It's just that family more or less forces you to care.

You buy a home for stability, then start keeping an eye on government because it's spending your property taxes. You want the streets to be safe for your kids, and their schools to be excellent. When they sign up for soccer or Scouts, you might even feel an unfamiliar urge to volunteer your time.

Most of my gay friends and acquaintances — your neighbors in Hernando — follow this path as far as the law allows. They hold steady jobs, own homes, care for parents and siblings, and try to find lasting relationships.

If these don't always survive as long as marriages, it's because they lack bonds such as (usually) kids and the legal right to fully share property. Of course, many, many gay unions are just as long-lasting and mutually supportive as any marriage.

"I'm a widower,'' said Gil Williams, 79, of Spring Hill, a retired export salesman from New York whose partner of 34 years, David Molloy, died nine years ago.

"I called him my spouse,'' Williams said. They would have certainly considered marriage if it had been an option, he said, and possibly adopting a child.

"When I was growing up, I always thought one of human beings' greatest joys would be to raise a child to be a good citizen of the country and the world,'' Williams said.

It should be obvious that we'd benefit by inviting people like Williams to fully participate in our society and that, as Williams said, "discarding and ignoring us is not a family value.''

But it's not obvious, apparently, to Yes2Marriage, and not, I was sad to learn from reading recent poll results, to the 58 percent of voters who say they support the amendment — close to the 60 percent majority required for passage.

This is worse than just bigotry. It's gratuitous bigotry because gay marriage is already banned in four different sections of Florida law.

So what will the approval of this amendment really do?

According to opponents, it will jeopardize shared benefits for all unmarried domestic partners, gay and straight. It will probably get a lot of conservative Republican voters fired up during a presidential election year, which, I suspect, is probably the whole point.

And, of course, it will insult fellow Floridians who have done nothing to deserve it.

If this sounds good to you, then by all means vote for Amendment 2.

When we deny rights, we give up rights 09/25/08 [Last modified: Friday, September 26, 2008 2:07pm]

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