by Nadine Smith
On this cool January morning, a Clearwater grandmother is talking to a conservative Christian health care worker who says she will vote NO in November on the so-called “marriage amendment” because she has witnessed first-hand the cruel impact of refusing legal recognition for unmarried partners. She’s watched the caretaking partner lose every penny paying medical bills for a life partner the law refuses to recognize as family.
Students in Orlando and retirees in Hallandale talked with voters about the divisive amendment for hours at Florida’s polls today. Some voters brushed passed but many had their own stories to tell. One man in his 60s said the amendment would hurt his mother and her boyfriend who have been together for decades but will not marry.
Retirees. Students. Union workers. Retirees. Straight. Gay. Young. Old. Grandmothers. Single Fathers.
More than 500 strong, an army of Fairness for All Families http://www.FairnessForAllFamilies.org volunteers fanned out across the state to talk to voters coming to cast their ballot at the Jan. 29th Presidential Primary.
Drawn from the more than 200 civil rights, faith, senior and campus and community organizations that make up the Fairness for All Families Campaign, these volunteers embody the far ranging impact of the deceptively named “Florida Marriage Protection” amendment.
If passed, it would strip away essential benefits from all unmarried Floridians – blocking the passage of civil unions and repealing existing domestic partnership protections vital to thousands of families.
This is a catalyst moment in a showdown that has been brewing for almost four years. And it is a fight that every one inside or outside of Florida has a stake in seeing Fairness prevail.
Let me be clear, this is heading to the ballot for one reason: To influence the outcome of the 2008 Presidential election by mobilizing arch-conservative voters.
The far-right has relied on this strategy for the passed decade. But it is a strategy that is running out of steam and is beginning to backfire precisely because of the broad and deep coalitions that are coming together to oppose the substance and the symbolism of these ballot measures.
We are all Floridians in 2008 because we all have a stake in defeating this amendment. Defeating it in the South. Defeating it in a Republican-controlled state. Defeating it as a tool for rallying the right by appealing to prejudice. Defeat it and in doing so end these amendments as a cynical political tool to manipulate votes at the expense of our families.
We can do that in Florida this year and the path to our success begins with each conversation by ordinary people with their neighbors, family, friends and perfect strangers at a nearby precinct.
The most common feedback from our volunteers on the ground: “You can never assume where people are going to stand without talking to them.”
This is how we win in Florida. This is how we win everywhere.
[Fairness for All Families is a coalition of more than 200 organizations dedicated to defeating the so-called “Marriage Protection Amendment. To volunteer from anywhere in the country, email [email protected]]