Saturday, February 02, 2008

Division of Elections Certifies Florida Marriage Protection Amendment for 2008 Ballot

Late last night the Florida Division of Elections announced that the Florida Marriage Protection Amendment is now certified for the November 4, 2008 ballot with a total of 649,346 petitions. Within the last two weeks, 92,000 petitions were collected in order to exceed the 611,009 required before the February 1 deadline.

The amendment defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman and would prohibit polygamy, group marriage, and same sex marriage from being recognized in Florida. The fight to bring this amendment to the ballot has been a coordinated effort by many individuals, organizations and churches. John Stemberger, State Chairman of Florida4Marriage.org, the official sponsor of the amendment, is to be commended for his extraordinary work in coordinating the petition drive. No marriage amendment effort in any state has gathered as many signatures.

In December, the Florida Division of Elections web site reported that more than enough petitions had counted and verified by the Supervisors of Elections, but then indicated in January that approximately 30,000 of the petitions were thrown out causing a shortage of approximately 22,000 petitions. With only two weeks remaining, groups and individuals all over the state rallied to collect more signatures to meet the February 1 deadline.

The process to amend the state constitution to protect marriage began in 2005 after a series of lawsuits were filed challenging Florida’s Defense of Marriage Act (which Mat Staver drafted) that was passed in 1997. A coalition of groups joined together and agreed on the language of the Florida Marriage Protection Amendment that was drafted by Mat and Anita Staver. In January 2006, Mat Staver presented oral argument in defense of the language, and on March 23, 2006, the Florida Supreme Court in a 7-0 opinion rejected the ACLU’s challenge to the marriage amendment. Following the ruling by the Court, the task became obtaining the required number of signatures.

The marriage amendment states: "Inasmuch as marriage is the legal union of only one man and one woman, no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized."

When I heard the Florida Marriage Protection Amendment was certified for the ballot, words could not express my exhilaration. I am thankful that so many pastors and community leaders came together in a coordinated effort to accomplish the largest grassroots petition initiative in Florida’s history. The fact that so many people poured their hearts into this marriage amendment underscores the broad support to protect traditional marriage. The wave of citizens will turn into a tsunami of voters who will go to the polls in November to pass the Florida Marriage Protection Amendment. This is a victory for the family, for the children and for the future of Florida.