Commentary: A review of six ballot issues

This editorial appeared in the Bradenton Herald on Thursday, Oct. 30, 2008.

Often when politicians and lawyers write ballot language on state constitutional amendments, the voting public strains to fathom the dense wording.

Calls continue to pour in here from confused citizens appealing for translations into everyday English. With the large number of absentee ballots and long lines at early voting, people want explanations now.

For those voters who missed our earlier editorials on the six amendments on this ballot, here are summaries along with our recommendations:

Amendment 1: This addresses an obscure constitutional provision from the 1920s that prohibits "aliens ineligible for citizenship" from owning property in Florida. Once Congress removed race as an obstacle to citizenship, courts began ruling against these alien land laws. Every state except Florida has repealed similar statutes. This has nothing to do with illegal immigrants. We support repeal and a yes vote.

Amendment 2: Listed as the Florida Marriage Protection Amendment, proponents of this citizen initiative say this is only a ban on same-sex marriage. Opponents say the vague, undefined language threatens the health care and pension benefits of people living in domestic partnerships. Courts in other states with similarly worded laws have ruled against domestic partnership benefits.

Many Florida companies and universities that offer those benefits are opposed to the amendment, as are economic interests that fear a negative impact on business recruitment and retention. There are also concerns that this measure could be raised as a defense in domestic violence cases, lowering conviction rates.

Florida already has four laws that address this issue, though amendment supporters say judges or legislators could change that.

Because of possible consequences beyond a ban on gay marriage, we recommend a no vote.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Bradenton Herald.