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Fla. marriage amend. qualifies for ’08 vote

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (BP)–Floridians will vote in November 2008 on a constitutional amendment to protect traditional marriage after the initiative apparently surpassed the 611,009 requirement for qualified signatures to put the proposal before the voters.

Leaders of the Florida4Marriage.org, a coalition of organizations promoting the constitutional amendment that includes the Florida Baptist Convention, announced the achievement at a news conference in Tallahassee Dec. 13.

“Today, the people of Florida have spoken. And they will speak again in November of 2008. Their message will be timeless and clear -– Marriage is the union of one man and one woman,” Orlando attorney John Stemberger, state chairman of the Florida4Marriage.org campaign, said in a statement to the Florida Baptist Witness. “This is the next critical milestone in the effort to protect the institution of marriage in Florida. A super majority of Floridians believe, and the research clearly indicates, that children do best when raised by a mom and a dad.”

The proposed Florida Marriage Protection Amendment stipulates, “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.”

The Secretary of State Division of Elections website recorded more than 613,000 petitions early in the day Dec. 12, but later in the day the number dropped back below 611,009. Later, none of the webpages for ballot initiatives were available.

Still, marriage amendment leaders are convinced the marriage amendment will be on the 2008 ballot.

Bill Bunkley, legislative consultant for the Florida Baptist Convention, told the Witness, “Today is truly a milestone in the history of the state of Florida.”

He called reaching the 611,000 threshold for petitions unique in the United States and a “remarkable accomplishment,” especially since the coalition did not use paid petition gatherers -– a common practice for ballot initiative efforts.

Bunkley added that the success in qualifying the marriage amendment “sets a new bar for the definition of grass roots initiative.”

The Florida4Marriage.org website, while celebrating the achievement, noted: “… we are encouraging individual volunteers, churches and community leaders to CONTINUE COLLECTING petitions through December and January. Each new petition obtained helps to promote the amendment to new voters and increases the chances for a victory for the Marriage Amendment in November 2008.”

The deadline for signatures is Feb. 1.

If adopted the amendment would prevent Florida state courts from legalizing “gay marriage.” Massachusetts, which has no such amendment, saw its highest court issue an infamous decision in 2003 legalizing “gay marriage.”
James A. Smith Sr. is executive editor of the Florida Baptist Witness, online at www.floridabaptistwitness.com.

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