Florida Governor Enters Debate on Effort to Ban Gay Marriage

By Victoria Langley
February 13, 2007 7:07 p.m.

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist says the state Republican Party should stop financing efforts to put an anti-gay marriage amendment on the 2008 ballot.

Conservatives feel abandoned, but predict the amendment will succeed anyway.

A controversial ban on same sex marriage is just 25 thousand signatures short of winning a spot on the 2008 ballot in Florida. Opponents are already calling it a disaster.

Pamela Fort with the newly-formed Fairness for All Families Coalition says the so-called marriage protection act could end up stripping away existing domestic partnership benefits from thousands of Florida families.

Pamela Burch Fort said, "Those unintended consequences can really wreak havoc on the lives of individuals, unnecessarily so."

The Fairness for All Families Coalition may have found a surprise ally in Gov. Charlie Crist. Florida’s most powerful Republican now sounds less than supportive of the proposed marriage amendment.

The state Republican Party has pumped $300,000 into financing the petition drive. The governor himself signed the petition to put the marriage amendment on the ballot while campaigning last fall.

But Crist now says there are better ways for the party to spend its money.

Gov. Charlie Crist said, "I think that the people care about issues like insurance premiums, they care about property taxes, they care about public safety, and I think it's important that not only those of us in government, but that the party focus on those issues too."

John Stemberger with Florida for Marriage is spearheading the petition drive. He predicts the amendment will make it with or without Crist’s active support.

John Stemberger said, "You’re going to see the most robust, well-funded campaign in any state marriage amendment history. We’re going to call upon every national pro-family group in the country."

Florida is expected to be one of 11 states asking voters in 2008 to ban same-sex marriage.

The Republican Party of Florida refused to comment on the governor’s suggestion that the party stop funding the petition drive for the ban on gay marriage.

A party spokeswoman says newly-elected chairman Jim Greer was traveling and unavailable to respond.