Why does Florida need a marriage amendment?
By MICHAEL FOUST
Published January 19, 2006
TALLAHASSEE (BP)–Conservatives in Florida are gathering signatures with the goal of placing a state constitutional marriage amendment on the ballot in 2006. Their deadline (late January) is fast approaching. Following are a list of some commonly asked questions, with answers.
Why is a constitutional marriage amendment needed in Florida?
A marriage amendment would prevent state courts from legalizing “gay marriage” and would protect the natural definition of marriage (one man, one woman) within the Florida Constitution.
Is Florida facing a “gay marriage” lawsuit?
Yes. A lawsuit seeking the legalization of “gay marriage” is making its way through state court, and eventually could end up before the Florida Supreme Court. If the lawsuit is successful, then Florida would be forced to legalize “gay marriage. Florida is one of nine states involved in a “gay marriage” lawsuit. The others are Connecticut, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Iowa, Oklahoma, California and Washington. Liberal groups such as the American Civil Liberties Unions are filing the suits.
But doesn’t Florida already have a law banning “gay marriage”?
Yes. But laws – unlike constitutional amendments – can be overturned in state court. This occurred in California and Washington state, both of which saw state courts strike down their respective laws banning “gay marriage.” (Both rulings are being appealed.) Neither state had a marriage amendment – which, once enshrined in the Constitution, cannot be overturned in state court.
Is “gay marriage” legal anywhere in America?
Yes, in Massachusetts. It was legalized by that state’s highest court in 2003, although the ruling didn’t take effect until May 2004. Washington state could be the next domino to fall -- that state’s Supreme Court is scheduled to issue a “gay marriage” ruling any week now. Worldwide, “gay marriage” also is legal in Canada, Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium. South Africa likely will begin recognizing “gay marriage” this year.
How do “gay marriages” in Massachusetts impact Florida?
Homosexual couples “married” in Massachusetts could move to Florida and file suit in state court to have their license recognized here. If Florida does not adopt a marriage amendment, a judge could strike down the state’s marriage statutes and force recognition of the couple’s “gay marriage.” Massachusetts currently has a law that prevents out-of-state same-sex couples from acquiring a marriage license, although it is being challenged in state court. If homosexual activists win the suit, then the spreading of Massachusetts marriage licenses nationwide could accelerate.
How many other states have passed marriage amendments?
Nineteen, although that number continues to grow. A marriage amendment has never failed at the ballot, and voters in those 19 states passed them with an average of 70 percent of the vote. Amendments have passed in Democratic-leaning states such as Michigan and Oregon and Republican-leaning states such as Mississippi and Utah.
What does the text of the proposed amendment say?
The amendment reads: “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.”
How many signatures must be gathered?
Approximately 611,000 valid signatures.
Where can I download a petition and find more information about the amendment?
Conservatives have launched a website, www.Florida4Marriage.org. It contains several resources, including sermon aids and bulletin inserts. The group behind the amendment, the Florida Coalition to Protect Marriage, must receive all petitions by Jan. 23. You may also download the petition from the Witness web site at www.FloridaBaptistWitness.com.
Why can’t this issue be dealt with in Washington, D.C.?
It can, although the one solution – a federal marriage amendment – is currently stalled in Congress. An amendment to the U.S. Constitution would trump all state laws and render state amendments unnecessary. But because the federal amendment fell short of the required votes in the House and Senate in 2004, conservatives on the state level see state marriage amendments as the best short-term solution.
State amendments have one weakness – they can be overturned in federal court. (Nebraska’s amendment was struck down by a federal judge, although the ruling is being appealed.) Nevertheless, they do provide a strong layer of protection against Massachusetts-type rulings.