Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Same-Sex Marriage Ballot Issue Challenged; ACLU, Gay Rights Groups Say Florida Marriage Protection Amendment Is Deceptive

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Same-Sex Marriage Ballot Issue Challenged; ACLU, Gay Rights Groups Say Florida Marriage Protection Amendment Is Deceptive

Article excerpt

Byline: J. TAYLOR RUSHING and JEFF BRUMLEY

The American Civil Liberties Union and gay rights groups have made a legal challenge to the proposed same-sex marriage ban amendment that got its start in Jacksonville last year.

The ACLU, joined by Equality Florida and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, filed a brief with the Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday in an attempt to prevent the Florida Marriage Protection Amendment from getting onto the general election ballot in November 2006.

The Orlando-based Florida Coalition to Protect Marriage is pushing the amendment, but ACLU lawyers say it is misleading and could actually affect traditional families.

"The language is deceptive, and they know it's deceptive," ACLU-Florida Executive Director Howard Simon said during a news conference in Tallahassee.

The amendment began in Jacksonville last November when delegates to the annual Florida Baptist Convention voted to make the measure a priority in 2005. Later, the convention joined forces with other religious groups in the state to launch the formal petition drive.

The drive has collected 82,407 signatures, according to the Secretary of State's Office. To make it onto the November 2006 ballot, a total of 611,009 signatures is required by Feb. 1.

Representing six same-sex couples, the ACLU brief asks the court to consider if the proposed amendment is misleading and contains multiple subjects, therefore violating both of the state's two legal tests for such an amendment.

Specifically, the ACLU says the amendment unfairly combines a popular idea such as banning same-sex marriage with a less-popular idea such as banning other forms of protection like civil unions.

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."

John Stemberger, chairman of the Florida Coalition to Protect Marriage, denied the amendment is deceptive. …

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