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A Times Editorial

Drive to enshrine bias marches on

It didn't take long. The constitutional ban on same-sex marriage has barely been adopted, and already one of the leading supporters of Amendment 2 has declared a new front in his fight against same-sex relationships. Florida Family Association executive director David Caton is now taking aim at domestic partnership benefits. It is exactly the sort of expanded attack the amendment's opponents feared.

This new campaign has an element of bait and switch. One of the most emphatic arguments put forth by supporters of Amendment 2 was that, by adopting a constitutional amendment prohibiting gay marriage or its substantial equivalent, there would be no residual impact on domestic partner arrangements. There was ample evidence that other states that adopted similar same-sex marriage bans ended up endangering protections and benefits for domestic partners. Still, Caton and other Amendment 2 supporters essentially guaranteed that the Florida Supreme Court would never interpret Amendment 2 to disallow county and local governments from recognizing domestic partnerships.

Those reassurances were an attempt to make the amendment palatable to a large swath of Florida's electorate that opposed gay marriage but was more accepting of other same-sex arrangements such as civil unions and domestic partnerships. The pitch worked. Amendment 2 passed with 62 percent of the vote.

Now we see that Caton's declarations on domestic partnerships were purely rhetorical. These arrangements will not be left alone now that Amendment 2 has passed. In fact, Caton says he plans to capitalize on the momentum from Amendment 2 to push for a 2010 charter amendment in Hillsborough County to pre-emptively bar the granting of any domestic partner benefits to gay county employees. Caton says he is acting because voters just elected openly gay Commissioner Kevin Beckner. And Caton has long-range plans to try to get the city of Tampa's same-sex domestic partner benefits repealed.

It is apparent that Caton will continue working to enshrine discrimination into law any way he can, regardless of any campaign-related claims. If down the road his organization argues the state's anti-gay marriage amendment prohibits any form of recognition of same-sex partners, it won't be much of a surprise.

On a brighter note, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Cindy Lederman has ruled that Florida's ban on gay people adopting children is unconstitutional. The judge declared it is clear "that sexual orientation is not a predictor of a person's ability to parent." She got it exactly right — and sent a strong signal that Caton's narrow-minded views about gay rights and the rule of law are not universally shared.

Drive to enshrine bias marches on 11/27/08 [Last modified: Monday, December 1, 2008 12:43pm]
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