A Florida state law already bars gay couples from marrying. It makes clear that the only marriages the state will recognize are those between a man and woman, meaning that even if a gay couple marries legally in some other state, it will not be valid here.
But that is not good enough for supporters of Amendment 2. They want to add a ban on same-sex marriage and any other form of domestic partnership into the state Constitution. It would send the wrong signal about the social tolerance of most Floridians, and the pain it would cause would ripple far beyond the headline issue.
The amendment says marriage is the legal union of only one man and one woman, and no other union "that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof" is valid. Floridians who are opposed to gay marriage but open to gay couples forming civil unions or domestic partnerships need to know that this sweeping language would ban legal recognition of these arrangements as well. In West Palm Beach, for example, same-sex couples can participate in a domestic partnership registry that grants them rights to hospital visitation, to be a medical surrogate and to make burial decisions for each other. But if Amendment 2 passes, these rights would likely be found unconstitutional.
Amendment 2's prime sponsor is the Orlando-based Florida4Marriage.org, which has been promoting the amendment under the name Yes2Marriage.org. Floridians, particularly those under 35 years old, are becoming more tolerant toward their gay co-workers and neighbors, who are friends and involved community members. This amendment would be a significant step backward.
The amendment also could threaten health and family protections unmarried seniors have created to care for themselves and their loved ones. It is not uncommon for older Floridians who have no interest in remarrying to enter into legal arrangements with loved ones to ensure they can care for each other, share health insurance and make medical and financial decisions for each other. Those arrangements could be jeopardized by Amendment 2 as well.
As the Office of Economic and Demographic Research, which identifies the impact of proposed amendments, wrote: "If domestic partnership registries are deemed substantially equivalent to marriage, their termination could place registrants at risk of losing specified rights and benefits, such as those related to health insurance."
If Amendment 2 is defeated, same-sex marriages still would be illegal in Florida. This amendment is unnecessary, and its unintended consequences are considerable. In an era where social tolerance is growing, it would freeze old attitudes for the foreseeable tomorrows.
On Amendment 2, the Times recommends NO.