Marriage equality won’t work as a vote — so South Florida figures it’ll just sue the bastards.
In a “Joint Statement on the Fight of Marriage in Florida,” eleven prominent LGBT groups in South Florida disjointed themselves from a movement calling for marriage equality to land in voters’ hands this coming election season. The joint statement is in response to a new group, Equal Marriage Florida, that recently launched with the aim of putting marriage to a vote, either in 2014 or 2016. Already the group has gathered more than 48,000 signatures. They need 68,000 to get the attorney general to review the language and approve an amendment for consideration. Then they need 680,000 to get that amendment on the ballot.
“It all depends on the variables that occur from state to state. You need 60 percent of voters to approve a constitutional amendment . We don’t feel we have enough time to change that many minds,” Michael Bath, events director and spokesperson for National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, told SFGN. “You’re talking about educating a lot of people in a very short amount of time — which costs a lot of money.”
The Pride Center’s CEO Robert Boo said that fighting for equality through the courts has a track record of success, and has its own side effects.
“As we go along we can start changing the public opinion in the more conservative areas of the state. We need to gain some traction,” Boo told SFGN. “We’re seeing that work in other states.” “Realistically, do I think we’re going to win the whole state on a ballot? Absolutely not.”
While the presidential election in 2016 might be better timing, Bath concluded, it doesn’t mean it’ll ever be good timing.
“We believe that the timing is premature, because the intensive work that would make victory possible has not been done and that a failed effort would set us back at a time of tremendous momentum,” the statement reads. It was endorsed by:
The statement declares that the groups would rather fight for equality through the courts.
“...We believe that the fastest path forward involves shifting public opinion and charting a strategy to achieve victory through the courts,” it reads. “Nearly 500 couples have signed up as plaintiffs for a potential lawsuit. A ballot measure should be a last resort, not a path taken hastily.”
Read the full statement:
As organizations that work together for LGBTQ equality and justice, achieving our right to marriage is a top priority. There is a strong coalition of local, state and national organizations actively planning and executing a strategy to capitalize on the recent Supreme Court decisions.
We are writing to clarify that our organizations are not affiliated with the recently declared efforts to put a marriage amendment on the ballot in 2014. We believe that the timing is premature, because the intensive work that would make victory possible has not been done and that a failed effort would set us back at a time of tremendous momentum.
In consultation with state and national legal and political experts, we believe that the fastest path forward involves shifting public opinion and charting a strategy to achieve victory through the courts.
We are investing our time in these strategies. Nearly 500 couples have signed up as plaintiffs for a potential lawsuit. A ballot measure should be a last resort, not a path taken hastily. And a deep investment would be required to lay the groundwork for success, especially in our state where a 60% majority is required to amend the constitution.
We are not closing the door entirely on a future ballot fight. Fundamental rights by their very nature should not be subject to a public vote. But in a state with a hostile legislature and a challenging legal path, we must consider the possibility of returning to the ballot box to undo the harm. The timing and resources needed to win must be a part of the strategy.
We must enlist thousands of marriage equality advocates to join a public education campaign aimed at shifting public opinion in our favor. Our success will determine if and when it would make sense to return to the ballot and will strengthen the chances that a legal challenge will prevail.
Addendum from Rand Hoch, president of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council:
The Palm Beach County Human Rights Council came out in opposition to the referendum on the day we became aware that signatures were being gathered.