HOUSTON — In a dramatic protest here against the discriminatory Texas Marriage Amendment on the ballot Nov. 8, 100 activists donned “tragedy masks” and black clothing, and carried signs spotlighting some of the many federal protections afforded to married couples that are denied to same-sex and common-law couples and their families.

The Oct. 23 event at Spotts Park was titled “No Tragedy in November: An Equality Vigil.” It was organized by the Foundation for Family and Marriage Equality (FFME).

The foundation says the proposed amendment “will write discrimination into the Texas Constitution’s Bill of Rights and weaken protection for Texas families.”

The No-Nonsense in November organization, which also opposes the measure, says the poorly worded amendment, known as Proposition 2, appears to ban all marriages in Texas. The ballot wording reads, “The constitutional amendment providing that marriage in this state consists only of the union of one man and one woman and prohibiting this state or a political subdivision of this state from creating or recognizing any legal status identical or similar to marriage.” One pundit calls it “a marvel of incoherent and obfuscatory language.”

A spokesperson for the Texas AFL-CIO, which opposes the amendment, expressed concerns that if it is enacted it could make it difficult for couples who live together but are not married to receive health insurance from their significant other’s employer. This would affect their children as well.

At the equality vigil, FFME President Jerry Simoneaux told the World, “The reason why we’re here is we’re very afraid of a poorly written amendment that could do more than what it says. It purports to define marriage as between one man and one woman, but in fact what it does is create a situation where same-sex couples’ domestic partner documents could be considered unconstitutional” because those documents might include similar rights and responsibilities to those of marriage.

“If that’s true, the very few remaining protections we have left will be gone,” he said. “What we’re doing here today is we’re showing by numbers that there are 1,138 federal U.S. laws that are automatically enacted for a married couple that same-sex couples don’t receive at all. They are very simple protections such as veterans’ benefits, Social Security benefits, the Family Medical Leave Act, the right to take time off for bereavement for a lost spouse. Those kinds of things we cannot do. We’re living in houses with legal strangers and now this amendment is going to affect our ability to protect our homes.”

Jeffry Downs, a member of Houston’s First Unitarian Church, told the World, “I don’t want to see bigotry and discrimination written into the [Texas] Constitution.”

Downs continued, “I’m a native Texan, I’m proud to be a Texan, I want equal rights as a citizen of this country and to see something like that happen to our great state would be a tragedy.”

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