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Gay marriage ban may not make ballot

BY GARY FINEOUT, gfineout@miamiherald.com

TALLAHASSEE -- A controversial amendment that would make permanent the state's ban on gay marriage may not make this year's ballot after election officials discovered a mistake made in Miami-Dade County.

Those seeking to put the amendment on the 2008 ballot must gather more than 611,000 signatures from across the state by Feb. 1. Those who backed the amendment that would ban gay marriage thought they had reached that threshold late last year.

But a new count of petition signatures ordered last week by the Department of State now shows that the Florida Marriage Protection Amendment is short by roughly 22,000 signatures.

Sterling Ivey, a spokesman for Secretary of State Kurt Browning, said the new count revealed that Miami-Dade's election offices had ''double-counted'' some 27,000 paper petitions that were turned in prior to January 2006.

Florida already bans gay marriage in state law, but organizers are seeking the amendment to ensure the ban is not overturned by a legal challenge. Opponents of the amendment, however, have countered that the measure is more far-reaching and could affect civil unions and threaten benefits for same-sex employees.

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