Monday, January 14, 2008

Anti-Gay Marriage Vote May Be Off the Ballot in Florida

From the Miami Herald:

TALLAHASSEE — A controversial amendment that would make permanent the state’s ban on gay marriage may not make this year’s ballot after state election officials discovered a mistake in numbers from Miami-Dade County.

Those seeking to put the amendment on the 2008 ballot must gather more than 611,000 signatures from across the state by Feb. 1. Those who backed the amendment that would ban gay marriage thought they had reached that threshold late last year.

But a new count of petition signatures ordered last week by the Department of State now shows that the Florida Marriage Protection Amendment is short by roughly 22,000 signatures.

Sterling Ivey, a spokesman for Secretary of State Kurt Browning, said the new count revealed that Miami-Dade’s election offices had ”double-counted” some 27,000 paper petitions that were turned in prior to January 2006.

Lester Sola, the Miami-Dade County elections supervisor, said Monday that his office was checking into the assertions made by the state, but he added that the state’s computer system that kept track of petitions routinely inflated the number of signatures from Miami-Dade County.

Florida already bans gay marriage in state law, but organizers are seeking the amendment to ensure the ban is not overturned by a legal challenge. Opponents of the amendment, however, have countered that the measure is more far-reaching and could affect civil unions and threaten benefits for same-sex employees.

John Stemberger, chairman of Florida4Marriage.org, said his group would ”immediately” call on volunteers across the state to crank back up their efforts to gather petition signatures.

”There’s a real temptation in pointing figners [sic], but we’re interested in getting the job done,” said Stemberger.

While I don’t think the anti-gay marriage forces have much of a chance of getting the needed signatures by Feb. 1, I also know that they won’t give up because of a paperwork snafu here in Miami-Dade County. (Gee, that has a familiar ring to it…)

What I find fascinating is that these people are so determined to drive a stake into the corpse of gay marriage here in Florida. As the article noted, there is already a law on the books. But they’re so frightened by the idea that the judicial system might find that such a law is unconstitutional — not to mention just plain discriminatory against a pretty large segment of the population in the state — that they have to keep coming at it again and again, and using tactics that border on the hysterical to try to get the amendment passed.

They’ve got a tough road ahead. To pass an amendment, it has to receive a supermajority of 60% in favor, and there have already been discussions of challenges to it because it is so broadly written that it could not only effect civil unions and benefits, but even outlaw some business partnerships.

A lot of people are working hard to make sure that the amendment doesn’t get on the ballot, and if it does, that it doesn’t pass. I will be one of them.