What I'll Be Wearing This Year
After three years of trying, Florida's -- I'll call them unenlightened -- have succeeded in getting onto the November ballot the so-called "Marriage Amendment," also called the "Florida Marriage Protection" amendment, whose proposed text reads as follows:
"Inasmuch as marriage is the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife, no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized."
If passed in November, such an amendment would do away with all domestic partner benefits in the state of Florida.
(I wrote this entry before seeing that this week's Sunday Scribblings theme is "Foul," but that term fits the proposed amendment well.)
Gay marriage is already illegal in Florida. This amendment goes much further by taking away health insurance and legal protections from straight unmarried families as well. Here are the domestic partner benefits it would strip away (Source: Partners Task Force for Gay and Lesbian Couples): ....
Broward County, Florida (1999)
Benefits: Medical, extends COBRA-like benefits.
Note: January 1999, the County Commission offered preference points to county contract bidders who extend spousal benefits to unmarried employees. In September, 2000, a Florida appeals court rejected a legal challenge to the ordinance by the Northstar Legal Foundation, a radical right law firm in Fairfax, Virginia.
Broward County School District, Florida
Delray Beach, Florida
Florida Department of Financial Services (DFS), Florida (2007)
Benefits: Sick leave. Implemented October 2007.
Note: DFS employs 2,560 Floridians. Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink implemented the policy at the request of of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council.
Benefits: Medical, extends COBRA-like benefits.
Health Care District of Palm Beach County, Florida (2007)
Jupiter, Town of, Florida (2007)
Benefits: Medical, dental, family leave.
Note: Voted by the Jupiter Town Council on March 6, 2007.
Key West, Florida (1998)
Benefits: Medical, extends COBRA-like benefits to municipal employees. For same-sex only.
Lake Worth, Florida
Miramar, Florida (2001)
Miami Beach, Florida (2001)
Sick, annual, bereavement leave
In November 2001, voters approved giving medical benefits to city employees’ domestic partners, and also approved offering survivor benefits to the domestic partners of police officers and firefighters.
Miami-Dade County School District, Florida
Monroe County, Florida (1998)
Medical, sick, bereavement, parental leave
Implemented 1998; extends COBRA-like benefits
Office of the Clerk and Comptroller, Florida
Office of the Property Appraiser, Florida
Office of the Supervisor of Elections, Florida
Office of the Tax Collector, Florida
Palm Beach County, Florida (January 2006)
Medical, sick and bereavement leave, life insurance, long term disability, dental, and vision voted October 18, 2005 and effective on January 1, 2006
Under a plan adopted by the County Commissioners in 2005, County employees with domestic partners have paid monthly premiums of $441 for the family health insurance coverage, while married employees paid only $92 for the same insurance. When the plan was adopted, Commissioner Karen Marcus promised to revisit the premium differential within a year. “After examining the cost, the County Commissioners have concluded that there is no reason to charge employees with domestic partners significantly higher premiums for the family coverage,” said Rand Hoch, Founder of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, a civil rights organization which has been in the forefront of the domestic partnership issue for more than a decade. On October 3, 2006, the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners unanimously voted to reduce health insurance premiums charged to County employees with domestic partners so that all employees will pay the same premium for family coverage.
Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners, Florida
Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, Florida
Benefits: Medical, no life insurance. For both same- and opposite-sex couples.
Palm Beach County Solid Waste Authority, Florida
Palm Beach Office of the Public Defender
Palm-Tran, (Palm Beach County) Florida
Palm Beach Gardens, Florida (2007)
Benefits: Sick and bereavement leave; access to the city’s Employee Assistance Program.
The City Council directed the City Manager to provide the “no-cost ”benefits on June 28, 2007.
Port of Palm Beach, Florida
School District of Palm Beach County, Florida
Tampa, Florida (2004)
Benefits: Medical insurance for all city employees.
Note: Mayor Pam Iorio issued an Executive Order on March 11, 2004.
West Palm Beach, Florida (1992)
Benefits: Medical; for both same-and opposite-sex couples; includes extending benefits the same as COBRA; effective January 1, 2007.
Note: The Federal COBRA law applies only to married employees – not to employees with domestic partners. When a City employee dies, the surviving domestic partner will have the
same option as a surviving married spouse to continue on the city’s health insurance plan for up to eighteen months. A domestic partner will pay the same premium under the city’s new policy that a surviving spouse would pay under COBRA.
Wilton Manors, Florida
(The Partners Task Force also lists domestic partner benefits in other states and in Canada, including a list of benefits offered and then denied.)
In May 2005 I began boycotting a natural foods store that solicited its customers to sign a "Preservation of Marriage Act." I have not set foot into that store since, and I found a more progressive alternative not far from it.
In my county alone, 4.1 percent -- almost 5,000 people -- are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered. That information comes from the Florida GLBT Democratic Caucus, which used extracts from the 2000 United States Census and polling information from various sources. More than a million people -- 6.5 percent of Florida's population -- are GLBT.
But the so-called "Marriage Amendment" reaches far beyond the GLBT population. It would deny benefits to families regardless of sexual orientation, who fall outside the amendment's narrow range of definition.
Last year I wrote to my Congresswoman, Ginny Brown-Waite, asking her to support H.R. 1592, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Here's part of her reply to me:
Brown-Waite: "I voted against this ill-advised bill because it unnecessarily elevates violent crimes against some people over crimes against others. For example, the horrific, random violence against 32 Virginia Tech students and faculty would somehow be of less importance under this bill than if Seung-Hui Cho had specifically targeted a group of transgendered individuals. Frankly, I cannot believe that the so-called civil rights party would champion a bill that would elevate one status of individuals over another. What about senior citizens, law enforcement, soldiers, veterans, or children? Further, the bill is eerily silent about prosecution against the clergy, who could potentially be targeted under the bill for preaching a message against homosexuality if it in any way predated an act of bodily injury by a congregation member against someone of one of the above protected groups." (Emphasis mine.)
Three years earlier, Ginny Brown-Waite voted FOR H.J. Res. 106, the Federal Marriage Amendment, which stated:
"Marriage in the United States shall consist solely of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman."
She again voted in favor of the amendment in 2006. (Source: Human Rights Campaign for the 2004 and 2006 voting results)
According to blogActive, Brown-Waite not only voted for the amendment. She co-sponsored it.
I have been a member of Equality Florida ever since I moved here five years ago. Equality Florida's president Nadine Smith, in her January 29, 2008 article, "We Are All Floridians," opened with this:
"On this cool January morning, a Clearwater grandmother is talking to a conservative Christian health care worker who says she will vote NO in November on the so-called “marriage amendment” because she has witnessed first-hand the cruel impact of refusing legal recognition for unmarried partners. She’s watched the caretaking partner lose every penny paying medical bills for a life partner the law refuses to recognize as family."
"If this amendment should pass, our constitution will be used to discriminate against a whole class of innocent citizens, to diminish human rights rather than expand them.," said the editorial board of Southwest Florida's News-Press on January 31, 2008. "Family is more important than ever, but it takes many different forms today." ("Marriage amendment breeds bias")
Open question to Congresswoman Brown-Waite: What about all of the senior citizens, law enforcement, soldiers, veterans, or children, who would lose crucial benefits if Florida's Marriage Amendment were to pass? And many, many of them would, regardless of sexual orientation.
In contrast, Senator Bill Nelson wrote me this e-mail in 2004:
Nelson: "Thank you for contacting me to express your concerns on a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. I am opposed to gay marriage. I firmly believe marriage should be only between a man and a woman, which is why I support Florida's law and states' rights to ban same-sex marriage. But I voted against a procedural motion, along with a majority of the Senate, to end debate, because this change to the U.S. Constitution does more than ban gay marriage. The wording could limit civil rights--including inheritance and hospital visitation, for example--for a whole class of people. And throughout our history, the Constitution has always guaranteed civil rights, not taken them away. I appreciate you being involved in the political process. I will keep your views in mind."
Obviously Senator Nelson and I disagree on some issues, but I applaud his candor and his compassion. He may not understand what it means to be without the 1,049 "benefits, rights, and privileges ... contingent on marital status or in which marital status is a factor," as detailed in the GAO report number GAO-04-353R filed in 2004, but I believe his heart is in the right place.
You can read the full text of their replies here.
As my schedule currently stands I will likely travel to three conventions in Florida, beginning next month, as well as to conventions outside the state. My buttons are coming with me.
What do they have to do with selling a science fiction book?
Covenant is dedicated to Mary, who is also listed as my life partner on my bio page in the back. And she is listed in my Acknowledgements: "Her contributions include those of editor, sounding board, and technical consultant. Less tangible but no less powerful are her emotional support and her willingness to share me with the creative urges that often pull me into a closed room. Since 1995 she has done more for me than I could ever adequately express, except to say that I still don't know how I got so lucky."
Cambridge, 1996. This is the photo I carry in my wallet.
Freedom to Marry benefit in Boston, 2002.
Certificate given to Mary and me at the Valentine's Day dinner last year hosted by MCC Ocala in Ocala, Florida. We had just celebrated our 11th anniversary then, and met couples who had been together more than twice as long.
Britney Spears' 55-hour just-for-fun marriage to Jason Alexander automatically awarded her more rights and benefits than were afforded to anyone attending that dinner, no matter how long or how deep their commitment to each other or how many sacrifices they had made.
Florida's proposed "Marriage Amendment" would uphold such a marriage, while denying basic benefits to many individuals -- over a million GLBT individuals alone -- but the amendment reaches far beyond that population.
For example, Helene Milman and Wayne Rauen, a heterosexual couple together for 23 years, would lose any hope of regaining their domestic partner benefits.
"[L]ike a lot of widows, Helene would lose her former husband’s Social Security benefits if she remarried," says their profile at Florida Red & Blue. "Helene’s former employer offered domestic health care benefits, but once she retired the premium to cover them both increased by $1500 per month. Like many other unmarried seniors, Helene is now planning to rejoin the workforce so they can afford their health care. Their domestic partner registration was the only thing that allowed Wayne to see Helene before she was wheeled into surgery for breast cancer. Without that registration card, Helene would have waited for surgery alone."
The Fairness for ALL Families Coalition fighting the so-called "Marriage Amendment" includes:
State and National Organizations
ACLU of Florida
Anti-Defamation League, Florida Region
FL Consumer Action Network
Florida Alliance for Retired Americans
Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates
Florida Collegiate Pride Coalition
Florida Education Association
Florida GLBT Democratic Caucus
Florida National Organization for Women, Inc.
Florida Red and Blue
Human Rights Campaign
Humanists of Florida Association
Know Thy Neighbor Florida
NAACP of Florida
National Black Justice Coalition Action Fund
National Center for Lesbian Rights
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
Pride at Work, AFL-CIO
Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry, FL (UULMF)
1st Congregational Church of Ft. Lauderdale, UCC
A League of Our Own
ACLU of Broward
ACLU of Florida - Northwest Office
ACLU: Greater Bay Area Chapter
All Things Pride
Alliance for GLBTQ Youth
ALSO Out Youth
Apostolic Catholic Church
Aquagirl Women's Foundation
Benedictin's Order of St. John the Beloved
Board of Directors, Treasure Coast Unitarian Universalist Church
Board of Trustees, Unitarian Universalist Church of Tampa
Brevard County Young Democrats
Casa, Inc. a.k.a. Caballero Appraisal Serv. And Assoc. Inc.
Center for Inquiry Community of Daytona Beach
Central Florida ACLU
Central Florida GLBT History Project
Christ Church of Peace
Church of Our Savior Metopolitan Community Church
Church of the Trinity Metropolitan Community Church
Circle of Light Metropolitan Community Church Miami
Coalition of Progressive Religious Voices
Code Pink South Florida
College Democrats at FSU
Come Out With Pride, Orlando
Congregation Etz Chaim
Congregation for Humanistic Judaism - Sarasota/Manatee
Contiga Broadcasting Corporation International
Coral Gables Congregational Church UCC
Democracy for America - Broward
Democracy for America - Tampa
Democratic Executive Committee of Sarasota County, Inc.
East Coast Metropolitan Community Church
Eckerd College Pride
Embry Riddle GALBA
Emerald Coast Pride, Inc.
Filmore Semniary, Inc.
First Coast Metropolitan Community Church
First Coast Pride
First Congregational United Church of Christ
First Unitarian Church of Orlando
First United Church of Tampa (UCC)
Florida Southern College Allies
Gay Lesbian Bisexual Student Union @ UCF
Gay Straight Alliance of Valencia Community College
Greater Daytona Beach Business Guild
GREEN (Gay Real Estate Executive Network)
Green Party of Hillsborough
Gulf Coast TIDE
Hillsborough County GLBT Democratic Caucas
Holy Cross Metropolitan Community Church
Hope Unites United Church of Christ
Horse Sisters and Associates, Inc.
Hugs: Helping Understanding Betweens Gays and Straights
Jacksonville Area National Organization for Women (NOW)
Jacksonville Area Sexual Minority Youth Network, Inc. (JASMYN)
Joy Metropolitan Community Church
King of Peace Metropolitan Community Church
Lake Helen UCC
Manattee Unitarian Universalist Fellowship
Metro Coffee and Wine: A 3rd Place Café
Metropolitan Business Assoc.
Miami Dade Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce
Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival
New Hope First Community Church
Orange County Democratic Party
Orange County Young Democrats
Orlando Front Runners and Walkers
Orlando Log Cabin Republicans
PFLAG of Jacksonville
PFLAG of Miami-Dade
PFLAG of Vero Beach
PFLAG Panama City
PFLAG The Villages
Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida
Potter's House International Fellowship
Pridelines Youth Services, Inc.
Rainbow Democratic Club
Sistahood of Ebony Lesbians (S.O.E.L.) Orlando
Social Justice Committee of Unitarian Universalist Church of Sarasota
Social Justice Committee, Unitarian Universalist Church of Clearwater
Solidarity, Justice and Peace.org
Southeast Florida United Church of Christ LGBT Coalition
Space Coast Business Guild
Space Coast Progressive Alliance
Speak Out Orlando
St. Dorothy Catholic Community/Dignity Orlando
St. Luke's Metropolitan Community Church
St. Pete Men's Chorus
Stetson University's Kaleidoscope
Stonewall Democrats of Pinellas County
Suncoast Cathedral MCC
Suncoast Stonewall Democrats
Switchboard of Miami, Inc.
Tallahassee Network for Justice
Tampa Bay Bears
Tampa Bay Family Pride
The Bears of Central Florida, Inc.
The Center (a.k.a. GLBCC) Orlando
The Family Tree Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgendered Community Center
The Franciscans of Fort Lauderdale
The League Against AIDS, Inc.
The Living Room of Brevard, Inc.
The Parish of Sts. Francis and Clare
The Religious Society of Friends
The Sanctuary Counseling Center
TransCentral Station - Orlando
Treasure Coast Pride
TriangleJax Democratic Caucus
Trinity Charities Inc.
Trinity United Church of Christ
UF Pride Student Union
UM OutSpoken UM SpectrUM
Unitarian Universalist Church of Jacksonville
Unitarian Universalist Church of Pensacola
Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Greater Naples
UNITY COALITION/COALICION UNIDA
Unity Leadership Sarasota
Venice Area Democratic Club
Venice/North Port NOW
VOX: Voices of Planned Parenthood at USF
West Florida United Church of Christ LGBT Coalition
Winter Park NOW Winter Pride Tampa Bay, Inc
Here's to Fighting The Good Fight.
Covenant, the first volume in the Deviations Series, is available from Aisling Press, and from AbeBooks, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Book Territory, Borders, Buecher.ch, Buy.com, DEAstore, libreriauniversitaria.it, Libri.de, Loot.co.za, Powell's Books, and Target. The Deviations page has additional details.