Group backing amendment called on national groups, church leaders to gather necessary number of signatures in only 13 days
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. A citizen initiative to ban gay marriage will be on the November ballot in Florida, the only one of more than 50 active petition drives that qualified Friday, Feb. 1, at the deadline for signature verification.
Hometown Democracy, which would have required voter approval of local growth plan changes, was the only other proposal that appeared to have a chance before the 5 p.m. deadline, but it missed the mark.
Officials, though, ran out of time before they could process all signatures due to a deluge of petitions submitted in the past month and the diversion of county election workers to preparing for and carrying out presidential primary election on Tuesday, Feb. 5. It couldn’t immediately be determined if there were enough unprocessed signatures to have placed Hometown Democracy on the ballot.
Sponsors of the single-gender marriage ban announced in December said they had obtained enough verified signatures. State officials then lowered the count by more than 20,000 signatures due to a glitch in the Division of Elections’ electronic reporting system. Some signatures had been counted twice.
Florida4Marriage.org had to restart its all-volunteer petition campaign and collected 92,000 signatures in just 13 days, said the group’s leader, Orlando lawyer John Stemberger.
“We contacted every national group that we knew about, we contacted every church leadership that we knew about,” Stemberger said. “It was a blessing to the group because it better organized us. We’re so very, very much ahead of where we would have been.”
The proposal’s backers are facing a well-organized opposition campaign called Florida Red and Blue. The group’s chairman, Jon Kislak, said he expected the proposal to get on the ballot.
“We are already busy collecting the resources and building the campaign it will take to defeat this dangerous amendment,” Kislak said. “We remain confident that voters will reject this amendment once they learn it can take away existing rights and benefits from millions of Floridians.”
The opponents claim it would affect the rights of all unmarried couples regardless of gender.
Each proposed state constitutional amendment required 611,009 signatures. That’s 8 percent of Florida voters who cast ballots in the last presidential election. The 8 percent criteria also had to be met in at least 13 of Florida’s 25 congressional districts.
The same-sex marriage ban was certified with 649,346 signatures 38,337 more than the minimum.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 8, 2008