Florida Bishops Seek Your Help To Save Sanctity of Marriage.
By G.M. Palmer
“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.
(Proposed Florida Protection of Marriage Amendment)
The Florida Bishops need your help to protect the sanctity of marriage. This fall, Bishop Victor Galeone will join his brother bishops of Florida in organizing parish petition drives for a proposed Florida Protection of Marriage Amendment. At least 600,000 signatures are required by this February before the measure can be added to the Nov. 7, 2006 general election ballot.
The purpose of the amendment is twofold: 1) The Amendment defines and preserves marriage as the union of one man and one woman as husband and wife; and 2) The Amendment prohibits any other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof from being valid or recognized as marriage.
In 1997, Florida Statute 741.212, commonly referred to as the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), was enacted. It states “marriages between persons of the same sex…are not recognized for any purpose in this state.”
“DOMA has been challenged several times since its creation,” says Michael McCarron, executive director of the Florida Catholic Conference (FCC) in Tallahassee. He says there have been a rash of lawsuits filed in the last year by celebrated Miami attorney Ellis Rubin on behalf of several same-sex couples.
Though these frivolous lawsuits were dismissed out-of-hand earlier this year, McCarron says the possibility of further constitutional challenges to marriage in Florida and in many states where the sanctity of marriage is being challenged, prompted the action by the FCC.
While Florida Governor Jeb Bush has stated the Florida Protection of Marriage Amendment is unnecessary, it is important to consider a few key points.
“The sanctity of marriage is under attack by several groups who intend to change the definition of marriage,” says Stephen Patton, director of the Family Life Office for the Diocese of Saint Augustine. He says, “Words matter. To arbitrarily expand the meaning of marriage as a word would only further weaken the stability of marriage as an institution. It would lead to more confusion, divorce and misery would surely follow.”
“The Florida Protection of Marriage Amendment will strengthen DOMA and eliminate any further constitutional challenges to the sanctity of marriage,” McCarron says. He adds,“It will support, not supplant Florida’s already strong Defense of Marriage Act.”
In their April 14, 2005 statement, Marriage is Between One Man and One Woman, the Florida bishops state, “Although Florida law already defines marriage properly, we believe that an amendment to the state constitution is necessary in order to prevent judicial invalidation of the law.”
While committed to their stand on the sanctity of marriage, the Florida bishops don’t want to give the impression they are “motivated by discrimination or animosity toward any group.” The statement says the church’s teaching about the dignity of homosexual persons is clear. “They must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2358)
According to the statement, “To uphold God’s intent for marriage in which sexual relations have their proper and exclusive place is not to offend the dignity of persons with same sex attraction. Christians must give witness to the whole moral truth and proclaim as immoral all sexual activity outside of true marriage, as well as any unjust actions and hateful attitudes toward homosexual persons.”
The petition drive for the Diocese of Saint Augustine will begin Sept. 25 and conclude by Oct. 2. To participate, make sure you are registered to vote in Florida. Only one petition per registered voter may be completed. Additional information about the petition drive will be made available in your parish in coming weeks.
To read the Florida Bishops statement, Marriage is Between One Man and One Woman and the Florida Marriage Protection Amendment, visit the Florida Catholic Conference website: www.flacathconf.org.
To read Florida Statute 741.212, the Defense of Marriage Act, visit: www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes.