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About last night in Fort Lauderdale: Lone GOP commissioner part of 3-2 vote for gay marriage

One of the votes on the Fort Lauderdale City Commission that tipped the balance narrowly in favor of a same-sex marriage resolution was cast by the lone Republican.

Commissioner Bruce Roberts, the city’s former police chief, was one of three votes in favor of the resolution along with commissioners Dean Trantalis, who is the city’s first openly gay member, and Bobby DuBose. Mayor Jack Seiler and Commissioner Romney Rogers voted against the resolution.

The resolution that will be sent to Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature calls for “equal access to legal marriage for same-sex couples.” The resolution is symbolic -- a city can’t dictate marriage laws.

The day after the vote we asked Roberts, a Roman Catholic married to a woman for about 35 years, why he voted in favor of the resolution.

“Actually it has been a metamorphosis for me to tell you the truth,” over the past three years, Roberts said.

Roberts said he views marriage as a civil rights issue.

“I thought it would be achieved through civil unions but that’s not going to happen...,” he said. “The way the country is set up with laws it has to be set up with what is called marriage.”

However Roberts said “it doesn’t change anybody’s ability to have a faith in their particular religion.”

During the meeting as Roberts explained why he would vote in favor, he said: “As my family has said to me I don’t want to be on the wrong side of history either as time moves along.”

(To listen to Roberts’ comments at the meeting, watch the city video starting at hour 2 minute 28. Seiler reiterated his support for civil unions.)

Technically commissioners are elected non-partisan in Fort Lauderdale though party activists play a role in campaigns.

We asked Roberts if he thought Broward Republicans would be  more successful at getting elected if they supported same-sex marriage and he didn’t want to give advice to others in his party.

“From my perspective I try to remain somewhat independent,” he said. “I also do believe generally speaking in less government in our affairs -- especially rules and regulations-- and that’s why I am affiliated with the Republican Party.”

Roberts, who represents the northeast part of the city, isn’t known for being particularly active in partisan politics. He first won election in 2009 and faces re-election next year.