Joe Dellosa


Amendment 2 about curbing rights, not protecting marriage

Notes & Context

I wrote this op-ed arguing against Florida's Amendment 2 in UF's campus newspaper on behalf of HDN, my LGBT advocacy group.

This op-ed holds a special place in my heart, because it garnered a strangely mean-spirited letter to the editor from a freshman—who, in turn, received a lot of harsh comments, now since deleted, from Alligator readers.

The published version of this article removed the scare quotes around the word "protection" in the fifth paragraph. Unfortunately, that made it look like I uncritically used the phrase "marriage protection amendment" (which I think is more than a little odious), so I've restored the scare quotes here.

Also, while the line about gay marriage being unpopular nationwide in the eighth paragraph was accurate at the time of publication, it's been really, sincerely heartwarming to see how quickly that has changed.

I’m against Amendment 2 because I believe Florida should stand up for the gay community.

The most vocal opponents of Amendment 2 have been arguing against the ballot initiative primarily on the grounds that it’s a threat to domestic partnerships, and that’s a valid argument. If it succeeds, the amendment would specifically define marriage as “the legal union of one man and one woman” and declare no other union “shall be valid or recognized.”

The amendment takes direct aim at gay marriage, but the ambiguous wording also throws the legal rights and benefits of all unmarried couples into serious danger.

Protecting domestic partnerships doesn’t mean pretending this amendment isn’t also a gay advocacy issue. It’s startling to see how the gay advocacy angle has been downplayed or outright ignored by those who simply want to see the amendment defeated.

Consider the strategy used in Arizona to combat a similar proposed amendment in 2006. Opponents seized upon their amendment’s implications for domestic partnerships, resulting in Arizona becoming the first — and, so far, only — U.S. state to reject a marriage “protection” amendment.

This year, Arizona will once again vote on a marriage amendment, but this time, the language will be narrower and will target only gay marriage. It has a much greater chance of passing; a 2005 survey found only 33 percent of Arizonans polled would support an amendment that affected domestic partnerships, but support for a ban exclusively on gay marriage was at 54 percent.

If Florida votes down this amendment solely on the grounds of protecting domestic partnerships, there’s no guarantee a more narrowly focused amendment won’t pop up in two years. It’s going to be difficult to tell people in 2010 to “defend gay rights!” when a few years earlier, they were assured this wasn’t about gay rights at all.

I understand gay marriage is still unpopular nationwide. Gay rights may not be a universal value, but compassion and understanding are.

I’m against Amendment 2 because the arguments for protecting traditional marriage and the warnings of the foundation of society being undermined sound a lot like those used to defend laws banning interracial marriage a century ago, and that’s frightening.

I’m against Amendment 2 because religious faith is supposed to be personal and sacred, and to manipulate religious beliefs as a political weapon — or as a get–out–the–vote tool — against a group of people is unconscionable.

I’m against Amendment 2 because quoting scripture in a political ad to foment fear and paranoia is shamelessly exploitative and could only be more blasphemous if the ad ended with “I’m Jesus Christ, and I approved this message.”

I’m against Amendment 2 because I care about the intangible impact of this amendment. I don’t want any gay person in the state to feel unwanted. I don’t want any gay high school student who’s already having a tough time to have another reason to feel alone, and I don’t want anybody who seeks to harass or threaten gay people to feel like they’ve gotten an implicit, unintentional endorsement from Florida’s electorate.

And I’m against Amendment 2 because everybody deserves the right to butcher “Such Great Heights” as they sing karaoke–style to the one they love without it being called unworthy of recognition.

Regardless of how those backing Amendment 2 are trying to frame this debate, a “no” vote isn’t a wholesale endorsement of gay rights. Rather, it’s a simple but powerful statement that says, “Regardless of how I feel about gay rights or marriage, I won’t allow a group of people to be ostracized and stigmatized just because they want to love someone.”

The proponents of Amendment 2 are betting that we don’t have the decency or the courage to make that statement. We need to prove them wrong.

Please vote “no” on 2.

Joe Dellosa is president of UF’s Human Decency Now and an advertising junior.

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