Florida Supreme Court Debates Anti-Gay Marriage Amendment

The question before the Florida Supreme Court was simple: is there more to the amendment than the backers admit?

To supporters of the amendment, the issue is simple. Same-sex marriages don’t count.

Matt Staver, a Florida 4 Marriage attorney, said, “This is a very clear amendment. I think it’s very simple and straightforward. Since the 1800s Floridians have known marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”

But ACLU attorney Leslie Cooper says the amendment tricks voters because it goes far beyond marriage.

Leslie Cooper says, "It suggests to the voters that to go in and vote for this amendment, they’re simply voting about marriage when in fact they’d be voting to take away protections from their lesbian and gay family members and friends unknowingly.”

Cooper told the Florida Supreme Court the amendment is technically flawed because it covers more than one subject, but Chief Justice Barbara Pariente didn’t buy it.

Barbara Pariente said, “I’m having trouble seeing where the single subject violation is, despite your excellent advocacy.”

A decision is not expected for weeks, if not months. Backers of the amendment won’t be waiting. They have 455,000 signatures, but need more.

John Stemberger, Florida 4 Marriage chairman, said, “We are launching the 155 in 155 campaign. We will collect 155,000 signatures in the next 155 days.”

Once they get those signatures, the marriage amendment will be ready for the 2008 ballot. But if the court decides there’s a technical flaw, they’ll have to rewrite it and start from scratch.

Backers of the marriage amendment were hoping to be on the ballot this year, but they could not gather enough signatures to meet the February 1 deadline.