Politics & Government

Floridians pushing gay-marriage ban think decision will help

TALLAHASSEE — Florida supporters of a proposed constitutional ammendment to ban same-sex marriages said they're hopeful that the California Supreme Court's ruling that gay marriage is legal there will help galvanize support for their measure.

Florida already ban gay marriage, but a constitutional amendment would make the ban immune to any legal challenges.

"It's Exhibit A why Florida needs a marriage amendment," said John Stemberger, an Orlando attorney and chairman of Florida4Marriage.Org, the group that gathered more than 600,000 signatures to place the amendment on the November ballot.

Added Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel, who argued the case before the California court and helped draft the Florida ballot proposal: "It will propel people to move forward so judges cannot undermine the definition of marriage by a stroke of the pen."

Stephen Gaskill, a spokesman for Florida Red and Blue, the group opposing the same-sex marriage ban proposal, said the California decision "does not alter the political or legal realities'' of the proposed ban in Florida.

Gaskill's group, citing recent rulings in other states, maintains that the wording of the amendment could threaten domestic partner benefits now allowed in Florida, although Stemburger disputes that.

"The question we should ask today is not, 'Will Florida follow California?' '' said Gaskill. "The question should be 'Will Florida learn the lessons of Michigan, Kentucky and Ohio?...Will we risk taking away existing benefits and legal protections in order to ban something that is already illegal?"

Unlike Florida, California already offers same-sex couples who register as domestic partners the same legal rights and responsibilities as married spouses, including the right to divorce and to sue for child support.

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