Saturday, February 2, 2008

Darkness finds its way to The Sunshine State

Got this email from Equality Florida today about the anti-marriage rights amendment which will appear on the ballot in Florida this November.

Here's the text of the email, if you're interested:

The day we expected has finally arrived.

A few hours ago, the Florida Department of Elections officially certified the deceptive "marriage protection amendment" to be on the November ballot.

Disappointing? Yes. Surprising? No.

After 4 years of signature gathering, the only surprise is how narrowly they reached the deadline.

Those pushing this onto the ballot hope to strip away rights from all unmarried Floridians by stoking anti-gay sentiments. Some of them are motivated by a desire to impose their particular religious beliefs on people through the Constitution. Others see this as tactic to help far right candidates in the November Presidential election. What this isn't about is "gay marriage".

Two state laws and a court decision already block access to marriage for gay couples in Florida. Now, this amendment would close the door to civil unions and any meaningful domestic partnership benefits for all unmarried Floridians - gay and straight.

Beyond the legal obstacles to taking care of our loved ones, this amendment is intended to deliver a dangerous symbolic blow by denigrating the lives of gay Floridians. It is the singling out, the idea that the majority should vote on the rights and the humanity of fellow citizens that makes today's news a particular and personal insult. And it is why in the wake of these amendment battles across the country, we consistently see an increase in anti-gay hate crimes.

I hope we give ourselves just a moment to grieve that this has been forced upon us. To feel the hurt , sadness and anger that are appropriate ways to feel in the wake of this news.

Knowing, intellectually, that we must face this challenge is one thing. Having it finally arrive in all its ugly spitefulness is another. It was difficult not to hold onto a glimmer of hope Florida would avoid this fight especially as the far right struggled to meet the deadline.

But now is the time to take a deep breath and allow that false hope to transform into the deep resolve to DO THE WORK that will DEFEAT this measure.

And we can DEFEAT it. Opposition to the amendment is broad, diverse and growing everyday. We stand with the NAACP, Florida Alliance for Retired Americans, Florida Consumer Alliance, Planned Parenthood, and more than 200 other civil rights, union, campus, faith, senior and social justice organizations who are part of the Fairness for All Families Coalition working to DEFEAT this amendment.

Polling shows we are within striking distance of beating this amendment if we are willing to do the work. Talk to your circle of influence, step outside your comfort zones and engage the people in your neighborhoods and the places where you shop.

Our job is to bring this message to millions of voters in Florida who are unaware and ill-informed about this measure. And experience has shown us our conversations matter. On Jan 29th, Equality Florida members were part of the Fairness for All Families Primary Day of Action that drew more than 500 volunteers out to talk to voters at polling places across the state.

Seasoned activist and first-time volunteers reported back with excitement how often a quick conversation had persuaded someone to vote NO on the amendment.

In November, your friends, family and co-workers will go to the polls and decide whether our families will be denied adequate protections, whether essential benefits can be stripped away and whether anti-gay political attacks are a good investment for the far right.

It is time for all of us to do something. Here's a good place to start: Sign the Pledge to Vote No and personally recruit 5 of your friends to do likewise. If everyone on this list did that today we would have nearly half a million more supporters by Monday.

We can't allow the people in our lives to go to the polls in November and make decisions about us without ensuring they hear the truth about this amendment and the harm it would inflict.

Working together we can DEFEAT this amendment.

Nadine Smith
Executive Director
Equality Florida

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