The following is taken from a letter by some Florida attorneys who publicly shared their concerns about this amendment with their fellow Floridians.
The vague language and potentially damaging consequences of the proposed Constitutional Amendment 2 in Florida called the Florida Marriage Protection Amendment. It is often referred to in the media as a "Gay marraige ban.' The proposed amendment is:
"In as much as marraige is the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife, no other legal union that is treated as marraige or the substantial equivalent therof shall be valid or recognized."
FLORIDA LAW ALREADY PROHIBITS SAME-SEX MARRIAGE
References to 'marriage protection' or 'gay marriage bans' are misleading as four existing Florida statues [FS 741.212 (1), 741.212 (2), 741.212 (3) and 741.04] already define marriage as the union of a man and a woman or oherwise prohibit the creationor recognition of 'same-sex marriages.' The legality or recognition of 'same-ses' unions in Florida will be no more or less illegal in Florida regardless of the outcome of the proposed amendment.
AMBIGUITY IN AMENDMENT LANGUAGE WILL LIKELY RESULT IN UNANTICIPATED AND SERIOUS ECONOMIC AND LEGAL REPERCUSSIONS
The chief concern is the section of the proposed amendment which states: "...no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized."
The 2006 report of the Florida LEgislative Office of Economic and Demographic Research (EDR) concluded: "The amendment provides no definition for the phrase 'substantial equivalent thereof,' which lends to the ambiguity of the wording of the proposed amendment."
Adding such vague, untested and undefined language is likely to deliver unanticipated repercussions and could substantially alter our state both economically and legally. Quoting the EDR report on Amendment 2 again, it warns, "Depending on actions taken by the Legislature, the courts, and Florida businesses, financial obligations between individuals are expected to change in complex ways..."
POTENTIAL LOSS OF EXISTING LEGAL PROTECTIONS AND BENEFITS FOR ALL FLORIDIANS.
ALIMONY: In 2005, the State Legislature adopted a new law designed to prevent a loophole where a former spouse receiving permanent alimony opts to cohabitate with a new partner rather than remarrying and continues to receive permanent alimony. Under this relatively new divorce law, a former spouse's alimony obligation may terminate if the recipient spouse enters into a "supportive relationship" with another person. Florida case law defines a supportive relationship as one that provides "support equivalent to marriage". Clearly, "support equivalent to marriage" is dangerously similar to "substantial equivalent to marriage". The portion of Florida Statute 61.14 recognizing a relationship providing "support equivalent to marriage" could be held unconstitutional under Amendment 2. As a result, every former spouse who is either Court Ordered or who signed an agreement to pay permanent alimony could be required to continue paying alimony despite the fact that the receiving spouse had found a new partner. At the very least, these individuals will face a costly Court battle trying to uphold their agreements and to terminate their alimony obligations.
Domestic Violence Protection: Other potential impacts include using Amendment 2 as a defense to domestic violence on an unmarried partner ( a similar amendment was used as a domestic violence defense in Ohio). Quoting the EDR again, "By invalidating any union or 'substantial equivalent thereof,' this amendment could be raised raised as a defense in domestic violence cases, resulting in fewer domestic violence convictions.
PRIVATE PROPERTY ARRANGEMENTS AND ESTATE PLANNING: Without examining every potential consequence in great detail, it is possible that Amendment 2 could also have profound implications on the ability of citizens to share property or pass on assets, establish trusts or other legal arrangements or even remarry. Especially likely to be impacted by this outcome are Florida's senior citizens and retirees who remain unmarried by choice and share pension benefits or other government benefits they have earned.
DOMESTIC PARTNERSHIP REGISTRIES: this vague and broad language could also risk termination of the several established domestic partnership registries which are currently accessible to millions of Floridians. These registries allow unmarried Floridians to share benefits or other protections such as hospital visitation, burial rights and health care benefits. The non-partisan and independent EDR report again sites this concern in finding: "If domestic partnership registries are deemed substantially equivalent to marriage, their termination could place registrants at risk of losing specified rights and benefits, such as those related to health insurance."
While NO ONE CAN KNOW THE FULL IMPACT OF THE PROPOSED AMENDMENT, LITIGATION WILL RESULT as vested interest challenge shared health plans, defend domestic abusers or goverments seek clarity to the undefined language in the proposal. Even if every warning and potential outcome proves unfounded, the years of uncertainty and sheer legal expenses would be costly and unnecesary. Florida voters should be hesitant to support the vague and untested language in Amendment 2. Adding such a provision to our Constitution is unwise, especially when adoptiong the amendment will not alter our state's current laws banning 'same-sex marriage.'
VOTE NO ON AMENDMENT 2