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Legal challenge could overturn gay-marriage ban in Florida

Six couples file suit in Miami saying ban fosters discrimination and stigma against same-sex couples

Photo: Courtesy of Equality Florida, License: N/A

Courtesy of Equality Florida

Fighting the good fight: (left to right) Stratton Pollitzer, Nadine Smith, Summer Greene, Pamela Faerber, Shannon Minter

Photo: Photo by Carlos Amoedo, License: N/A

Photo by Carlos Amoedo

Mary Meeks

As to whether this will ramp up Stemberger’s ire (and that of the base that follows him) with domestic partnership playing out in the legislature, Farmer doesn’t draw as direct a connection.

“Maybe it’s a little naive,” he says. “I don’t know that it will really change that much. We’ve always been an organization that has been upfront about the fact that we want full marriage equality. It doesn’t mean that we don’t have to deal with the confines of our current situation. Domestic partnerships are not even close to the same thing as marriage. I think for us, one of the frustrating things about him using that scare tactic is, on a strategic level, [the statewide domestic partnership] bill is not about that for us. It’s about finding the quickest way to find the most amount of equality for the most people in need.”

Besides, the public tide is clearly turning. Last week an Oregon judge consolidated two challenges to that state’s marriage ban, and the matter may even be decided before it even reaches the ballot this fall. Proponents of overturning the ban don’t see the two-pronged effort as a waste of time, though.

“We’re committed to bringing [gay] marriage to Oregon as quickly as possible and doing it in a way that permanently solves the problem,” Oregon ACLU director David Fidanque told the Associated Press. “And that’s why we’re pursuing the parallel tracks of the court action and the ballot measure.

It’s important to get the constitutional ban out of the state constitution even if the litigation is successful.”

Similar maneuvering may be on the horizon in Florida, Farmer says. A new Public Policy Polling study found that, for the first time, a majority of Floridians support gay marriage: 47 to 44 percent, up 14 percent in a little more than two years. For those under the age of 45, the margin of support is 58 to 34 percent.

“On a good day, we’re somewhere in the low 50s; we need to do better than that,” Farmer says. “I think one of the questions we have to ask ourselves – and we’re really confident that justice will prevail in the courts, it’s long been the place that people go as a minority … There’s going to be a moment where we have to decide if we’re going to go after a ballot measure. There are a lot of decisions that are coming together that are really tough for the organization.”

Then again, based on the response this latest announcement has stirred up in phone calls and donations, Farmer remains optimistic.

“We have never had so much press, and we’ve never had such a big platform,” he says.

Florida isn't the only state facing legal challenges from same-sex couples seeking marriage equality. Read this story from our sister paper, the San Antonio Current, about the couples suing Texas for the right to marry in their state.

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