October 4, 2007 Publishing Good News since 1884 Volume 124 Number 235

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ACLU seeks to keep Fla. marriage amendment off ballot


TALLAHASSEE (BP)–The American Civil Liberties Union joined other liberal interest groups Sept. 21 in filing a lawsuit against a proposed constitutional marriage amendment in Florida, seeking to prevent it from appearing on the ballot in 2006.

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Similar to lawsuits against amendments in other states, the ACLU suit, filed at the state supreme court, argues that the proposed Florida amendment violates the state Constitution by dealing with more than one issue – banning “gay marriage,” Vermont-style civil unions and domestic partnerships.

So far, no state supreme court has prevented an amendment from going to the voters. Eighteen states have adopted such amendments, and others are likely to follow. Texans will vote on a marriage amendment in November.

“Those behind this initiative are trying to hoodwink the people into believing this is only about marriage,” Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, said in a statement. “The truth is it goes much further than that. It blocks same-sex couples from civil unions and threatens domestic partner registries.”

Conservatives, though, disagree and say the amendment deals with only one subject – marriage and its legal benefits. A conservative coalition, Florida4Marriage.org, is collecting signatures with the goal of putting the amendment before voters. Liberty Counsel is representing the group.

“Same-sex marriage advocates know that when the people have the opportunity to vote they overwhelmingly uphold marriage between one man and one woman,” Liberty Counsel President Mathew Staver said in a statement. “Their only hope is to misrepresent the facts and derail the amendment. Pure and simple, the ACLU and its allies want to take away our right to vote. But that will not happen.”

The ACLU was joined in the lawsuit by Equality Florida and the National Center for Lesbian Rights. They represent six homosexual couples.

Last year state supreme courts in Georgia and Louisiana rebuffed efforts by liberal groups to keep amendments off the ballot. In both instances, the groups argued the amendments violated the single-subject rule.

Marriage amendments have proven wildly popular nationwide, passing with an average of 70 percent of the vote in the 18 states that have adopted them. A marriage amendment has never lost at the ballot. The amendments protect against rulings by state courts. Massachusetts – where “gay marriage” was legalized by a court – has no such amendment.

The proposed Florida 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.”