TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A group with ties to conservative Christians has launched a citizen petition to ban gay marriage in Florida.
The proposal would amend the state Constitution in 2006 to define marriage as a union between "only one man and one woman" and that no other kind of marriage or legal union is equivalent to marriage.
The measure, filed Wednesday with the state Elections Division (search), would have little immediate impact in Florida if approved by voters. State law bans same-sex marriage, but an amendment would remove the Legislature's authority to change that.
The measure was filed by a political committee called Florida4Marriage.org (search). A news release also used the name Florida Coalition to Protect Marriage (search). Orlando lawyer John Stemberger, director of the conservative Christian group Florida Family Focus, is listed as chairman.
The group has until February 2006 to gather the 611,001 signatures required to qualify for the 2006 general election ballot. The Florida Supreme Court must approve ballot language.
Stemberger gained visibility during the 2004 Republican Senate primary. A supporter of Mel Martinez, Stemberger was at the center of an attack mail piece against Martinez's chief rival, former U.S. Rep. Bill McCollum. Stemberger condemned McCollum's record of supporting hate crime legislation.
After winning, Martinez said he regretted the attacks on McCollum, a conservative who opposes gay marriage.