BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com
Miami political consultant Vanessa Brito, who successfully ran the 2011 campaign to recall Miami-Dade Commissioner Natacha Seijas, today will file paperwork to put marriage equality back on the Florida ballot in 2014.
The petition seeks to change Florida's definition of marriage from "one man and one woman, as husband and wife" to "a union of two persons," according to Brito, a lesbian activist and co-chair of Equal Marriage Florida, a new political action committee.
"We submit the petition today and the state has seven days to approve the language for a proposed referendum," said Brito, also a board member of Unity Coalition.
The group's initial goal: 68,351 signatures by Aug. 1.
Brito says her group will gather signatures from Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties "through and into the I-4 corridor."
If Equal Marriage Florida gathers enough names, it will have until Feb. 1 to get 681,000 signatures. "Our goal is to get a million signatures, because obviously not all will be valid," Brito said.
Equal Marriage Florida hopes to raise and spend $6 million for the petition drive, she said.
If all goes as planned, a statewide referendum would be held November 2014.
Five years ago, just under 62 percent of Florida voters passed Amendment 2, which defined marriage as a union only between one man and one woman, and also banned civil unions. Sixty percent of Florida voters would need to repeal the constitutional ban.
Earlier this week, Equality Florida, the state's largest gay-rights organization, and the national Freedom to Marry group announced an unrelated educational campaign about marriage equality in Florida.
Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida, said earlier this week it was too soon to determine whether her group would attempt to repeal Amendment 2 at the polls in 2014.
"When we look around the country and we see where we have succeeded in securing marriage equality, all of those campaigns, whether they were at the ballot or through the legislature, began with shifting public opinion. And that’s the heart of this campaign, where everyday Floridians, celebrities, elected leaders, all stand up and make their support absolutely clear," Smith said.
The campaign can be won, but only if Libertarians and moderate Republicans are on board, Brito said. Gary Johnson, Republican governor of New Mexico from 1994-2003 and a Libertarian presidential candidate in 2012, is Equal Marriage Florida's honorary co-chair.
Brito said her campaign will also focus on younger voters.
"It’s our generation, the people in their 30s, the voters in their 30s," she said.
Brito believes that many conservative voters quietly support marriage equality.
"What are the two most personal things a person does? Who they pray to and who they sleep with," Brito said. "There’s something to be said about what happens in the ballot box in private."