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Gay-rights coalition: Now is not the right time to put same-sex marriage on Florida ballot

More: ACLU, 11 major LGBT groups in South Florida: A failed referendum effort would be major setback

BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com

Gay marriage will "be imposed" on Florida by the U.S. Supreme Court before state voters, judges or lawmakers would repeal a 2008 constitutional ban, predicts ACLU of Florida Executive Director Howard Simon.

“I don’t want to build up any false expectations that it would be good to run back to the ballot right now, or that it would be good to think that we should file a lawsuit anytime until the hearts and minds change more and the environment changes a bit more,” said Simon, whose organization has joined with three major gay -rights groups to coordinate strategy for securing gay marriage in Florida.

On June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned part of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, ruling the federal government must recognize legal marriages of same-sex couples performed internationally, in 13 states and the District of Columbia. The high court did not consider the portion of DOMA that allows states to not recognize these marriages.

Thirty-seven states including Florida have laws banning gay marriage, creating “legal chaos” for married gay couples, Simon said Monday on Justice With a Snap, an Internet radio program.

“Legal experts and community activists at the national and state level are exploring all the options for challenging those bans – legislative action, ballot referendums, and legal challenges,” according to a statement released by Equality Florida, the state’s leading gay-rights group, the ACLU of Florida, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and Lambda Legal.

It’s unlikely that Florida’s 2008 Amendment 2, which defined marriage as between a man and woman, could be overturned at this time in the state, said Nadine Smith, Equality Florida’s executive director.

Instead, Equality Florida is focusing on an educational campaign called Get Engaged. “There are two places that we’re really investing,” Smith said on the radio broadcast. “When you look at the places where marriage equality has come, through the legislature or through the ballot, it’s preceded by a deep investment of a public education campaign that humanizes these issues.”

In June, lesbian political strategist Vanessa Brito of Miami began a petition drive hoping to put the gay-marriage issue on the 2014 Florida ballot.

“In three weeks, we collected nearly 40,000 signatures,” Brito said Tuesday, adding that if polling in January shows the measure can’t pass in November 2014, she would hold her petitions two more years.

Recent polling in Florida shows about 54 percent of voters now support gay marriage. It would take 60 percent plus one vote to repeal the gay ban.

Simon and Smith believe that’s currently not possible.

“People have to be realistic,” Simon said. “We have a high hurdle to jump over in Florida, which is the 60 percent rule.”

The ACLU and other groups believe that Florida will get full gay-marriage equality when the rest of the U.S. gets it.

“The ACLU is working now to secure the equal right to marry nationwide by following up our U.S. Supreme Court victory in the Windsor case with lawsuits in Pennsylvania, Virginia and North Carolina,” Simon told the Miami Herald.

“An extensive analysis of the national landscape make it clear that, given the political environment in Florida, including the decidedly unprogressive state of our federal appeals court, we are more likely to secure the right to marry for Florida’s same-sex couples from victories in other states than by initiating either a lawsuit or a referendum in Florida.”

Comments

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Thanks for coming on "Justice with a Snap!" yesterday.

Progress to what end? This is complete and utter hooey. The degradation of society is considered to be progressive?

We wanted to retire in Fl. However we have returned to our home state of Ca. We could not take the tea bag mentality there. We have since married here. Thank goodness.

It's a sad state of affairs when the political climate in NC is considered more progressive than the political climate in Florida. Are Floridians soon going to be envious of Mississippians, too?

Yosmani Grindal- Grafals - for a foreignor, or minority - you got alot of BS to say against others?! Remember sweety there was a time when someone with a name like yours would be considered Lower then dirt sweety

well I still refuse to go to Fla...until they wise up and treat all people fairly.....was there in 96 Disneyworld....would love to go back, but I aint spending my money in a hate state.

There is no such thing as same sex marriage. To call it anything but just "Marriage" furthers the belief that marriage is only between a heterosexual and a heterosexual woman. I use the term "Marriage Equality" when speaking about the unconstitutional and discriminatory law based in Christian Mythology on the Florida books.

So why is the AcLU, or similar groups, not filing their own lawsuits in Florida against Florida's obviously unconstitutional amendment? All the legal court precedent they need is already in place now just waiting for them to use it.

I also disagree. They should also be taking this to a vote. If they want education there is no better way than a public initiative. This time they have the courts behind them saying such amendments are unconstitutional. Who but a bigot is going to vote for something they know is so blatantly unconstitutional? I think the Union would be pleasantly surprised by the vote. And who knows what legalities the court might get bogged down with waiting to get all this finalized. Remember it took them 5 years to rule on Prop 8. And that is not even properly settled yet.

I say we need to seize the day and use all available fronts before us to strike down such bigoted and unconstitutional laws. Gays have waited for decades for the full arch of justice to swing their why. Now that is here, no gay or lesbian should have to wait even one day unnecessarily before being allowed to participate in their full rights, benefits and responsibilities under the constitution.

Sue, the courts are always open for business!

I disagree. Holding back hasn't gotten us this far. We waited too long to begin with.

Now is just the time for Florida to tackle marriage equality by suing the state and counties to remove their bans and stop the discrimination. Civil rights should never be a ballot issue.

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