Monday, October 27, 2008

USA Today: Turn-Out Critical in Florida Amendment Fight

USA Today reporter Andrea Stone (who has previously reported on marriage equality in California and efforts to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell") traveled to Florida last week to look at efforts in that state to defeat Amendment 2, a divisive constitutional amendment to bar state recognition of all unmarried couples, both heterosexual and LGBT.

Her story, in this morning's paper, highlights efforts on the ground to build a diverse coalition of allies - including senior citizens, religious leaders and others - to win this critical fight.

"Helene Milman, 68, and Wayne Rauen, 59, of Sunrise are convinced that after 25 years together, nine of them as registered domestic partners, the measure will strip them of protections," Stone writes. "They are featured in a TV ad paid for by the group Say No to 2."

"Milman shudders at the idea that she might have spent five hours alone on a hospital gurney as she awaited breast cancer surgery in 2003. Without his domestic partner I.D. card, Rauen might not have been able to stay by her side. If forced to marry, the widow would lose $13,000 in annual Social Security benefits."

"Why can't they let people live their own lives?" Rauen asks.

In fact, same-sex couples are a minority of those who will have critical legal protections denied if Amendment 2 passes.

"The Census Bureau reports 435,492 unmarried-partner households in Florida," Stone writes. "Nearly nine of 10 are heterosexual, says demographer Gary Gates of the Williams Institute. Many are widowed seniors who would lose Social Security or pension benefits if they remarried."

60% of voters must approve a change the constitution, and USA Today notes that recent polls have found 55% support for the measure, making turn-out critically important on November 4.

"Interviews reveal support for defining marriage as a union of a man and a woman but concern that the measure may go too far," Stone says in her story.

"Haven Eaton, 61, a Tampa handyman, says he will vote no. 'While I may not favor same-sex marriage,' he says, 'I don't think they ought to be denied benefits available to traditional marriage.'"

To read the full USA Today story, visit the paper online. And for more information on Amendment 2 and the campaign to defeat it, click here and here.

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