Anti-Gay Fla. Initiative Will Appear on Nov. Ballot
A Florida group’s ballot initiative to amend that state’s constitution and ban marriage equality squeaked through on Friday, just making the deadline.
The result means that in November, Florida voters will decide on the fundamental legal rights of gay and lesbian families.
Although Florida already has a law on the books specifically denying gay and lesbian families marriage equality, anti-gay proponents of the amendment fear that a court decision could, at some point in time, overturn that legislation, allowing same-sex couples access to the protections of matrimony.
Opponents of the measure say that the ballot initiative is less about protecting the exclusive right of heterosexuals to marry than it is about turning out conservative voters in this year’s presidential election.
In 2006, a number of states saw ballot initiatives approved by voters that changed the constitutional rights of gay and lesbian citizens. Of the twenty-seven states where such proposed amendments have appeared on the ballot, only one state--Arizona--saw the measure defeated by voters.
Opponents of the ballot initiative in Florida hope to see the measure voted down there as well, and have already launched a drive to educate voters as to the dangers they say the proposed amendment poses to straight unmarried couples.
Elderly couples are especially vulnerable to the amendment, opponents say, while anti-gay promoters of the measure dismiss those warnings as "scare tactics."
Either way, as the Orlando Sentinel reported on Feb. 3, both those in favor of the amendment and those working to see it defeated have said that the inclusion of the initiative on the ballot will bring out conservative voters come election day.
The Orlando Sentinel quoted Republican Party of Florida spokesperson Erin Van Sickle as saying, "It’s absolutely going to drive conservatives to the polls."
Said Van Sickle, "It’s a Republican issue. It’s a conservative issue."
As such, the Orlando Sentinel reported, the ballot initiative may well provide a Florida boost to the Republican candidate for the Oval Office. Florida is worth 27 electoral votes to whichever Democratic or Republican hopefuls secure their party nominations.
The Sentinel article quoted Barbara DeVane, who serves as the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans’ state secretary.
Said DeVane, a retired school teacher who also is a founding member of Fairness for All Families, a coalition of groups opposed to the measure, "The other reason they’re doing it is to bring out the hard-core, fundamentalist, right-wing base of Republicans for the presidential election."
As reported at EDGE last week, members of Fairness for All Families were out in force at the Jan. 29 Florida primary to educate voters about the proposed measure, which they say could harm the state’s unmarried heterosexual couples as well as gay and lesbian families.
The group pushing for the amendment, Florida4Marriage, was also out at the primaries, talking to voters and gathering signatures. A last-minute setback for the group looked like it might dash the approval of Florida4Marriage’s petition to get the initiative onto the ballot in November when 27,000 signatures were found by state election officials to have been counted twice, leading to a race against time to get more signatures to meet the requirement of 611,000 signatures.