Apr 262008
This entry is part 2 of 35 in the series Gay Marriage

In this post, we’ll review the moderated part of the debate between Nadine Smith of Fairness for All Families and John Stemberger of the Krazy Kristian Kooks of Florida. They were debating the Florida Constitutional Amendment 2 at the Tiger Bay Club of Orlando. This is part of a series on Florida’s Amendment 2.

The first question goes to Stemberger, and it is the heart of the matter. The moderator notes that it’s already illegal for gay people to marry here in Florida, so why do we need an amendment. As expected, Stemberger gets on the activist judge bandwagon and talks about Massachusetts, and how they needed an amendment. Since they didn’t have one, the activists judges up there decided to be social change agents. This argument works with stupid people, and Lord knows there are plenty of those, but I was once told by a Judge that the definition of activists judges are judges that rule against you.

People forget that those “agents of social change” were the ones that ended segregation, poll taxes, and gave women the right to vote. Of course the people in Stemberger’s corner would probably think that those were bad ideas too, and that’s what is sad about America today.

He goes on to claim that the Florida Supreme Court has already ruled that this amendment will not affect domestic partner benefits. Smith counters that the Supreme Court ruled on the only issue before it (always required for these amendments) that it was a single issue amendment. The Court in effect, was ruling on whether this law did only one thing, deny benefits of marriage to people. They ruled that it did that, and that only. Now, what those benefits are and what that means will be up for interpretation and attack in the courts for years to come.

Stemberger loves to note that state and federal law grants 1,138 rights and benefits to married couples, while domestic partnerships in Florida grants only six or eight. He uses this claim to say that because there are only a few benefits granted under domestic partnerships, they can’t rise to the level of “substantial equivalent” of marriage (the amendment language), therefore, domestic partnerships are not threatened.

Smith never points out how that his argument is prima facia evidence that gay people, prevented from being married, are already treated unfairly. Of course again, that argument doesn’t fly as well. But it does show disparity and unfair treatment given to gay couples.

The other problem with this argument is that the courts have not ruled on what constitutes a “substantial equivalent thereof.” I mean, how many benefits does it take…6, 23, 47, 102. Are the benefits weighted…If I get three of these and four of those I’m not equivalent, but if I get six of these and two of those I am? Smith kind of points this out, but not with the strong language that is needed here.

Next Stemberger claims the only arrangement that would rise to that level would be full-blown gay marriage that provides all the benefits of marriage. Let’s be sure we save this video for when he starts trying to take away domestic partner benefits.

In the second segment of the moderated portion, Stemberger starts out talking about Fairness for All Families having a “pathetic strategy.” He wags his finger saying that: “They’ve lost every single marriage amendment in the country except for one in Arizona. So in Arizona they said, we’ve gotta change our strategy. We have to scare senior citizens, so they will not debate the policy merits of how gay marriage is not in the best interest of children and families and the common good of society. That’s the bottom line. It’s a scare tactic. They’ve done extensive polling. They’re throwing anything they can throw up to the thing to try to district you from what the real policy issue is.

I concede his point to a degree. We downplay the unfairness to gay couples, but it is also true that once these amendments pass, these people so hate, and are so threatened by gay people (for some reason), that they will attack domestic partner benefits that apply to everyone, just to deny them to gay people. That’s the part of their story they won’t talk about.

UPDATE: See this article about Amendment 2 supporters already collecting information from Municipalities offering domestic partner benefits for the expressed purpose of challenging the provision of those benefits.

Stemberger goes back to the old “protecting children” theme, saying they need the socialization that comes from heterosexuals. You know, those people that have done so good at protecting their institution of marriage and keeping kids in two parent families. He says their only motivation (meaning primarily his) is to protect basic institutions.

Smith finally attacks a bit of the hateful rhetoric and puts out there the real question about how they treat this as a zero sum game. If I get something, then they get less. She finally makes the point to the crowd that no one has offered any information about how existing marriages are changed-damaged, whatever, if this does not pass.

Stemberger once again goes back to the old line of protecting institutions that protect children. Stemberger does say this amendment will prevent civil unions.

Series Navigation<< Florida Amendment 2-The Great Debate Part IVFlorida Amendment 2 – The Great Debate Part II >>

  3 Responses to “Florida Amendment 2-The Great Debate Part III”

Comments (3)
  1. John, this is a great summary of an important debate. What disturbs me most, I think, about the Stembergers of the world (in addition to their dishonesty) is how they are willing to harm families in the name of protecting family values. There are all kinds of families in the world–and in Florida–and they, and the children in them, deserve support, not obstacles, when it’s clear that they are doing a good job of holding together a family unit.

    Florida may be shooting itself in the foot economically by targeting LGBT folks with this kind of nonsense, which is, in the last analysis, really just a ploy to drum up Republican votes in the coming federal election. These hate campaigns drive creative gay folks away from places where their talents contribute a lot to building a more humane and viable society. Studies of places that have a high “creativity quotient,” which attract talented young people to move to these places, show that acceptance of LGBT folks is high on the list of criteria that these young folks look for, when they consider moving.

  2. Bill,

    I must tell you, you made a vital point here. No family should face discrimination based on their marital status. This is why Alternatives to Marriage exists. We’re a non-profit based in New York that tackles exactly these issues. I’m working on a campaign to fight against the passage of Amendment 2. It’s ridiculous, discriminatory and incredibly harmful. Marriage is not protected, and neither are unmarried Floridians. This Amendment can’t be passed, both for the gay community, and for all of Florida’s unmarried residents. Thank you for being in support of family equality. Feel free to check out http://www.unmarried.org. You won’t be disappointed!

    And John, thank you for posting this debate!

  3. Jessica, I, too, am grateful to John for maintaining such a great blog.

    I appreciate your response to my posting, and I’ll check out your website.

    I saw a recent video clip in which Matthew Staver of Liberty Counsel was debating someone–whose name I can’t recall–about the Florida amendment. Staver’s opponent made the important point that many other couples in addition to gay couples will be affected if this amendment passes.

    Staver denied that, but to do so, he has to twist the language of the amendment itself.

    The bottom line is that the amendment is one more way to try to bring out the religious right vote in a swing state, in the coming elections. The use of gay lives to make political points is so gross, and so blatantly obvious, that I wonder why some citizens miss this.

    It didn’t surprise me at all when Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard encouraged McCain to play the homophobia card yesterday on FOX news. This has been the tactic of many on the right for some time now.

    I only hope that people are beginning to be fed up with the religious right enough that they will no longer respond to this ugly tactic.

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