The Fort Lauderdale City Commission is expected to vote tonight on a resolution asking the Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott to enact a law allowing same-sex marriage.
The resolution is sponsored by City Commissioner Dean Trantalis, the city’s first openly gay commissioner.
The vote is purely symbolic -- the city can’t force the state to allow same-sex marriage. However the vote could become a flashpoint in future campaigns if Democratic Mayor Jack Seiler decides to run for statewide office in the future (he took a pass this year but hasn’t ruled out a future bid).
It appears that Seiler will oppose the resolution tonight.
“I still support civil unions with full benefits. I have been a supporter of domestic partnership benefits for City employees for almost 20 years, and I signed such benefits into law as Mayor of two different cities," he said in an emailed statement today, referring to Fort Lauderdale and Wilton Manors. "I am proud of my record on promoting equal rights for all, and I will continue to provide equal benefits on issues that fall under the City's governance and jurisdiction. As you know, the City of Fort Lauderdale does not regulate marriage and has no authority to make laws impacting marriages in the State of Florida.”
Seiler has been viewed as a longtime supporter of gay rights beginning in the 1990s when he was on the Wilton Manors city council and later as a state representative. A Catholic married father of four children, Seiler told the Miami Herald last year that he had no position on same sex marriage but supported civil unions. That position for a high-profile elected Democrat in liberal Broward is unusual and puts him at odds with other notable Democrats who have become supporters of same sex marriage in recent years.
Though his views on same-sex marriage could resurface during Seiler's re-election race next year, that race will largely focus on issues such as city spending and services. Seiler has never lost a campaign.
The text of the resolution states that the commission supports “equal access to legal marriage for same-sex couples” and opposes laws that prevent that access. The vote tonight could be close, according to gay activist Michael Rajner.
Fort Lauderdale -- and Broward County -- has one of the state’s most visible gay resident and tourist populations. The city drew nationwide attention in 2007 when then-Mayor Jim Naugle made comments about gay sex in public bathrooms leading to the “Flush Naugle’’ protests.