November 6, 2007
Florida Amendment Banning Same-Sex Marriage Gaining Momentum
Florida law already prohibits same-sex marriage. However, like many states, Florida voters and legislators wish to enact a State Constitutional Amendment banning gay marriage. The drive stems from voter concern that Florida courts might recognize gay marriage, overturning current State legislation.
The text of the proposed Amendment states:
"Inasmuch as marriage is the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife, no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized." See Herald Tribune Article.
The language of the amendment is so broad, however, that it might impact gay and straight couples alike. The term "substantial equivalent" could be a problem for straight couples who have not wed, but enjoy health and retirement benefits due to county domestic partnership protections.
Domestic Parenter county laws have been upheld by Florida courts in the past. Broward County, for example, enacted law that protected "domestic partners" by granting them limited economic benefits if they work for the county. Lowe v. Broward County, 766 So. 2d 1199 (Fla. App. 2000). For instance, an employee of Broward County may elect to add a domestic partner to his or her insurance policy (whether the domestic partner is of the same sex or opposite sex). This statute was upheld against a challenge that it conflicted with the State DOMA Act. Id.
However, as the language of the proposed Amendment is so broad, domestic partnership State benefits (for both gay and heterosexual couples) may not survive scrutiny. Thus, heterosexual couples and gay couples alike could be impacted by the broad text of the Amendment, if it gains the 13,000 votes necessary to place it on the Nov. ballot and, subsequently, is adopted to the Florida Constitution.
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Many of Florida's LGBT community thought long and hard during the 2006 election cycle when a constitutional amendment was proposed to increase the electoral vote necessary (from a simple majority to 60%) to adopt future constitutional proposals because we knew this amendment was on the horizon. Although proposed by the Republican legislature as a mechanism to stymie initiative proposals, the measure gained some unexpected support and was adopted (57%). That's the good news.
The bad news is that recent polling by LGBT organizations suggests that a constitutional ban on same-sex marriages could pass with more than 60% if the vote was held today. LGBT organizations are gearing up for a difficult fight.
Florida International University
Dept. of Political Science
Posted by: Rebecca Salokar | Nov 13, 2007 5:57:37 PM
There is a really intense debate going on about this over at riled up: http://riledup.com/debate/303/should-gay-people-have-the-same-right-to-marriage-as-straight-people
Posted by: Dan Reese | Apr 12, 2008 3:35:22 PM