ACLU Says Florida's Proposed Marriage Ban Threatens Health Benefits for Thousands of Families

Affiliate: ACLU of Florida
April 6, 2005 12:00 am

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ACLU of Florida
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: media@aclu.org

MIAMI – Saying thousands of men, women and children in Florida could lose their much-needed health benefits if a proposed constitutional amendment limiting marriage to a man and a woman is approved by voters, the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida today issued a report documenting how the proposed marriage ban threatens to deny health insurance and other benefits to domestic partners and their families.

“This proposal to amend the Constitution has little to do with preserving the institution of marriage and everything to do with rolling back health insurance and other employee benefits,” said Howard Simon, Executive Director of the ACLU of Florida.

The report issued by the ACLU of Florida documents efforts by supporters of the constitutional amendment to deny pension benefits, health insurance, hospital visitations and inheritance that long-term committed couples have received as a benefit of employment by a governmental agency or public university in Florida.

The campaign to deny gay couples any legal protection will be used to lay the foundation to challenge such benefits in the private sector, the ACLU said.

The ACLU argues the constitutional amendment is unnecessary, as noted by Gov. Jeb Bush, who declined to support the proposal, especially in light of Florida’s “Defense of Marriage Act,” which prohibits recognition of a marriage between two people of the same sex performed in another state.

The ACLU of Florida issued today’s report to demonstrate the far-reaching impact the ban could have on Florida families. For example, it could affect whether a person could take leave to care for a sick partner or even to attend a loved one’s funeral. It also could affect other important rights, including the right to visit a loved one in the hospital, make medical decisions if a partner is incapacitated, or make burial arrangements if a partner passes away.

Public officials in states with similar constitutional amendments such as Michigan and Ohio are already relying on the new amendments to terminate domestic partner health and other benefits to public employees and their children.

The ACLU of Michigan recently filed a lawsuit on behalf of 21 same-sex couples in which one partner could be ineligible to receive health benefits as a result of the state constitutional amendment.

In California, a state appeals court recently ruled that a state law granting domestic partners nearly identical legal rights as married couples does not conflict with a voter-approved ban on gay marriage. The Campaign for California Families, which had challenged the domestic partner law, has already vowed to appeal and move for another ballot initiative that would end domestic partnerships.

More information on the Michigan case is available at: /lgbt/relationships/12215prs20050406.html.

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