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Florida GOP Rallies Around Marriage Inequality as LGBT Community Mobilizes

| June 26, 2013

Götterdämmerung. (Fordos)

Götterdämmerung. (Fordos)

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Floridians are celebrating the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic rulings striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act and paving the way to restore gay marriage in California — but said the victories are bittersweet.

By a 5-4 majority, the high court on Wednesday overturned DOMA, which has denied federal benefits to same-sex couples who are legally married in states that approve their unions. Florida is not one of them.

“The rulings out of the Supreme Court mean so much for so many people, but so much less for the people in Florida,” said Rep. Joe Saunders, an Orlando Democrat and one of the first two openly gay lawmakers in the state.

That’s because in 2008, Floridians passed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and civil unions, with the measure receiving nearly 62 percent of the vote. There’s also a state version of DOMA on the books, passed in 1997.

“In Florida, I think there’s been a very clear statement with the marriage amendment, where we stand,” said House Judiciary Chairman Dennis Baxley, an Ocala Republican and supporter of the ban.

Other Florida Republican leaders weighed in Wednesday, reiterating their support for the traditional view of marriage as between one man and one woman.

“The voters in 2008 decided that we’re going to be a traditional marriage state,” said Gov. Rick Scott, noting that he’s been married since he was 19. “That’s what the voters decided, and it’s my job as governor to uphold the law of the land.”

“I respect the rights of states to allow same-sex marriages, even though I disagree with them,” said U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., in a statement. “But I also expect that the decisions made by states like Florida to define marriage as between one man and one woman will also be respected.”

But Florida LGBT activists, fired up by the rulings, said they have no intention of leaving matters as they stand.

Civil rights attorney Mary Meeks of Orlando said the high court’s ruling will immediately grant more than 1,100 federal rights and benefits to same-sex couples who were married in states that have legalized same-sex unions. Nine states and the District of Columbia have such laws on the books now, while three more states have approved same-sex marriage to take effect Aug. 1.

“The money question that I believe is unanswered by this court’s decision is whether people like my wife and I, who got married in states like that but who live in states like Florida that prohibit same-sex marriage, whether or not we will have access to those rights and benefits,” Meeks said.

“And I think that’s a legal question that will only be answered by further legal action.”

Advocates are also considering two other avenues for change: another constitutional amendment that would overturn the 2008 ban, or legislation at the state level.

Hardly anyone thinks the latter is likely, even Saunders. “For this year, it feels like a heavy lift,” he acknowledged. During the 2013 session, Saunders filed a bill (HB 653) that would have banned workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, but it died without a hearing.

Also this year, a bill that would have allowed domestic partnerships for unmarried couples (SB 196) made Florida history by passing one committee — the Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee, chaired by Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood and the bill’s sponsor. But that was as far as it got.

“The make-up of the Legislature just has no tolerance for this kind of radical legislation that redefines marriage,” said John Stemberger, president of the Florida Family Policy Council and a staunch opponent of same-sex marriage. “I think that’s a dead end for them.”

That would appear to leave a ballot measure as a likely alternative, and last week the gay-rights group Equality Florida announced its new “Get Engaged” campaign to do that in 2014.

University of South Florida political scientist Susan MacManus said a sharp generational divide favors the passage of same-sex marriage as the electorate ages.

“But it’s still a divided state on the issue,” she said, “and if it were put on the ballot, much would depend on the turnout — the demographic make-up of the voters who actually turn out to vote.”

That’s why, MacManus added, backers of same-sex marriage would be well-advised to mount their campaign in 2016, because a higher percentage of young voters go to the polls in a presidential election. Older voters tend to dominate in a midterm election, she said.

The changing demographics have prompted more politicians who opposed same-sex marriage — including U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and former Gov. Charlie Crist — to change their views on the issue.

Baxley acknowledged the demographic shifts, but he wasn’t ready to declare his traditional view of marriage obsolete.

“Some of those young folks’ opinions are going to shift as they mature,” he said.

–Margie Menzel, News Service of Florida

Gov. Rick Scott Reacts to the Supreme Court Decisions on gay Marriage

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6 Responses for “Florida GOP Rallies Around Marriage Inequality as LGBT Community Mobilizes”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Homosexuality is a perversion. Please don’t wreck my weekend with this crap. My family’s not sighing up. If I want this agenda shoved down my throat (pardun the pun) I’ll move to Key West or San Fransisco

    • Nancy N. says:

      Wow, I feel sorry for you that you cannot see 10% of the human race in any terms other than what they do in the bedroom.

      I on the other hand, will continue to value my gay friends for their love, humor, talents and immense joy for life.

  2. Ayn Rand's Spleen says:

    Florida’s GOP can keep rolling around in whatever insanity passes for their “family values” like a dog rolls around on a fresh turd, but that’s not going to change nationwide or even florida demographics.

  3. E. C. H. says:

    Everyone is valuable but whether we like it or not, we all have differences and that’s what makes this nation such a bastion of freedom.

    This has nothing to do with discrimination. It is a religious freedom issue. A very small percentage of the population is trying to force a very large majority of the population to change their institution of marriage.

    Why won’t our homosexual friends accept a different name like “Civil Union” with laws that grant them all the same benefits as marriage? Why instead are they choosing to insult the institution between man and woman called marriage that some hold very dear in their relationship with their God. Is the hope that in 10, 20 or 30 years from now, no one will know the difference and all children will be taught anything is okay in school? That becomes a very serious religious issue in many religions that want to honor God and teach their children that sex between a man and a man or a woman and a woman is not healthy according to their God. This has nothing to do with hate or discrimination and everything to do with a lack of respect for millions of Muslims, Jews, Christians, Mormons and more…

    Give it a different name and give the legal partnerships the benefits they deserve. But please, don’t try to force our children and grandchildren to call it marriage.

    • Ayn Rand's Spleen says:

      Hey, I have no problems with black people using water fountains because everyone needs water, right? I just don’t want them to use my water fountain, so let’s get them their own and put a “colored” sign above it so they know which one to use. That’s literally what you are advocating.

      53% of the American population has no problems with gay marriage. That’s not a “small” percentage, that’s a majority.

  4. Sherry Epley says:

    I believe it was Nancy who commented months ago that there is a vast difference between marriage and holy matrimony. The word Marriage is a legal term embedded into many of our laws and public/private policy. Laws that define tax responsibilities and policy that allows access to loved ones in a hospital, etc.

    The kernal of the legal joining of a couple is the “Marriage License”, which is issued by the legal authority of the state. With it, you can be “married” with NO religious cerimony, in any location you like. All that is required is a witness and notorization of the couple’s signatures. That is, for all intents and purposes, a “civil union”.

    Holy matrimony also requires the same license, but implies a cerimony that involves a member of the clergy. In “holy matrimony”, religious tradition and practice comes into play.

    Surely we want loving couples to be treated fairly and equally “under the law”. The need to include “civil unions” under the legal umbrella of the word “Marriage” is to keep from having the requirement to go back and rewrite all the statues where that word appears. It’s all a matter of symantics. Here again, we need the separation of church and state.

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