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Gay Marriage Next Month?

December 4th, 2014 by flanews

Will Florida join a majority of states in the country and recognize gay marriage? As Matt Galka tells us, it looks like that answer will be yes starting in January.

Voters approved a gay marriage ban in 2008. A constitutional amendment was approved that defined traditional marriage being between a man and a woman. That could be coming to an end next month. A federal appeals court declined to extend a stay on the ban.

Jim VanRiper and Equality Florida have been fighting for the ban to be overturned for years. The ruling says a stay on the ban will be lifted at the end of the day on January 5th.

“It’s been a long time coming and we’re excited to see this day drop,” he said.

The original federal ruling overturning the ban came down in August. A stay was put on to allow an appeal.   The State’s Attorney General could still factor into the decision

Officials from Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office said they are reviewing the ruling.  Bondi had asked for an extension of the stay.

“Well I guess nothing is definite until it’s done, but it would take the Supreme Court, the U.S. Supreme Court implementing a stay of their own, and that’s highly unlikely. It hasn’t happened in similar situations,’ said VanRiper.

Licenses could start to be granted on January 6th, the same day as Governor Rick Scott’s inauguration. If the marriage licenses are handed out next month, Florida will become the 36th state plus Washington, D.C. to allow same-sex marriage.

Posted in State News | Comments Off on Gay Marriage Next Month?

Gay Marriage Appeal Could Go Directly to State Supreme Court

October 14th, 2014 by Mike Vasilinda

Attorney General Pam Bondi is asking a lower court to send the gay marriage question directly to the state’s highest court. The move is an about face for the states chief legal officer, and the move is drawing criticism from the gay rights community.

Attorney General Pam Bondi hasn’t said publicly if she’s for or against gay marriage, but she’s been adamant about how gay rights cases should be handled. On August 18th, she was confident the case would be decided in Washington. “The US Supreme Court. They need to decided this case. They are going to decide this case, hopefully sooner than later. So, we’ll have finality.”

But after the nation’s highest court turned down appeals, Bondi has filed paper work with a Florida appellate court, saying gay marriage is a matter of great public importance. She wants the case to go directly to Florida’s Supreme Court.

Gay rights activists say the latest filing is just one more delaying tactic, trying to get the Attorney General past the November election. Her office declined comment, leaving a void for gay rights activists to fill. Jim Van Riper is the President of Equality Florida. He says “It’s really time for her to stop wasting taxpayer money, and let it go. It’s time to drop the appeals.”

Democrat George Sheldon has also been chiding Bondi for months to drop appeals…saying the writing is on the wall. “So, if you were Attorney General, what would you do?” we asked. His response:  “I would immediately stop, I would drop the appeals, I would ask the courts in Florida to lift the stays on the decisions for the courts that have already ruled, and, ah, move on.”

The appellate court is not obligated to bump the case up without a hearing and the State Supreme Court is not obligated to take the case without a lower court conflict.

4.8 million voters approved he Marriage Protection Amendment in 2008. It was placed on the ballot through an initiative petition.

Posted in State News | Comments Off on Gay Marriage Appeal Could Go Directly to State Supreme Court

Gay Marriage Win?

October 7th, 2014 by flanews

It’s a fight that will remain ongoing in Florida.  The Supreme Court’s decision not to hear lower court appeals will most likely legalize same sex marriage in 30 states, but Florida will have to wait.

“It can happen in Florida, I think that we have an opportunity here where Attorney General’s around the country have said it is inevitable and it’s time to give up the fight,” said Equality Florida member Jim VanRiper.

A federal judge overturned the state’s ban on same sex marriage in August – but put a stay on the ruling.  After the high court’s decision, Florida’s ACLU is asking the North Florida judge to end his delay.

“The Supreme Court has spoken on this issue and essentially said we are fine with marriages proceeding, and that’s a great sign for folks everywhere including in Florida. I think it’s a sign that a lot of judges around the country will take a hard look at it,” said ACLU Attorney Daniel Tilley.

Thousands of same sex couples in the state have been waiting for the word that it will be ok to go to the clerk’s office and get a marriage license. State clerks of court say they don’t have a plan yet about what they’ll do if the licenses are granted.

“Florida court clerks and comptrollers are always looking at the information that’s available, always looking at court decisions just like you are, and making the best decisions for the people of Florida,” said Florida Court Clerks President Joe Smith.

Supporters say a huge road block has been Attorney General Pam Bondi.  She has challenged many rulings around the state overturning the ban, and says she defends the Florida constitutions definition of traditional marriage.  Her office said they were reviewing the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision.

The statewide decision on the reversal of Florida’s gay marriage ban has gone to an appeals court in Atlanta. That process may not be completed until summer of 2015.

Posted in State News | Comments Off on Gay Marriage Win?

The Biggest Gay Marriage Decision Yet

August 22nd, 2014 by flanews

A fifth judge in Florida has struck down the state’s ban on gay marriage, but his decision impacts the whole state. Matt Galka sat down with the two couples that brought the case to federal court.

It was a celebration at Jim Brenner’s house.  Brenner and his partner Charles Jones were the original plaintiffs in a federal court case against the state’s ban on gay marriage.

Couple Stephen Schlairet and Ozzie Russ joined the suit soon after. Both couples have been together for more than 20 years.

“We’re not asking for anything that other people don’t already have. We’re not asking for anything special. We’re not asking for anything out of the ordinary. We just want the same things that everyone else has,” said Brenner.

A federal judge sided with the four men and struck down the state’s ban on gay marriage – the fifth Florida judge to do so. Every other ruling only had local impact – the federal ruling means the ban has been declared unconstitutional statewide.

“I think there’s the question and people are saying that the courts are deciding “do I like gay people or do I not like gay people.” That’s not the issue, the issue is about whether or not the constitution – what it means when it says all people are created equal,” said Schlairet.

No same-sex couples will be getting marriage licenses in the state yet. The judge’s ruling allowed for an appeals process.

In 2008, voters put into the constitution that marriage is defined as being between a man and a woman. That’s why the Attorney General says she has appealed the four other rulings in the state.  Now she says states need an ultimate decision.

“Instead of having all these different rulings from different judges, not only from Florida but throughout every state in the country, lets let the US Supreme Court decide it, sooner than later we hope, and have finality on all sides,” said Attorney General Pam Bondi earlier this week.

The hope from the victors in the latest ruling is that the US Supreme court acts by the end of their upcoming session in June of 2015.

Marriage licenses in Florida will be put on hold until the US Court of Appeals rules on the decision. The timetable for that is unknown.

Posted in State News | Comments Off on The Biggest Gay Marriage Decision Yet

The Attorney General and Same Sex Marriage

June 5th, 2014 by flanews

Comments from Florida’s Attorney General on same sex marriage have ticked off LGBT advocates. As Matt Galka tells us, the state says voters wanted it this way.

Florida’s Attorney General is fighting to dismiss a challenge to the state’s same sex marriage law. But the wording she used has rubbed Equality Florida the wrong way.

“It’s the wrong decision, the wrong thing to do,” said Jim VanRiper, a member of the group’s board.

Attorney General Pam Bondi said that “disrupting Florida’s existing marriage laws would impose significant public harm.”

“She chose to take the political angle instead of the personal people angle. This has nothing to do with anybody except people in same sex marriages, and instead, she chose politics over people,” said VanRiper.

The Attorney General released a statement on the issue. Bondi reminded voters they passed a constitutional amendment to define marriage being between a man and a woman in 2008.

The Attorney General said she was “keeping her sworn duty to uphold the laws of the land” and “defending the wishes of the voters.”

The American Civil Liberties Union filed the federal lawsuit in March.

19 states have legalized gay marriage. The state is digging in to try and stop Florida from becoming the 20th.

Posted in State News | Comments Off on The Attorney General and Same Sex Marriage

Florida to Defend Traditional Marriage

June 26th, 2013 by Mike Vasilinda

Today’s Supreme Court ruling on Gay Marriage is expected to have limited impact here in Florida, but advocates say it should be seen as a call to action.

Six of every ten voters approved the Florida Marriage Protection Act in 2008. It says the state can only recognize a marriage between one man and one woman. The addition to the constitution is a road block to legal challenges in Florida and Governor Rick Scott says he’s going to follow the law.”The voters in 2008 decide that we are going to be a traditional marriage state, and that is what the voters decided. It’s my job as governor to uphold the law of the land” Scott told a gaggle of reporters.

“And if there were to push to change, would you take the position on it.” asked a reporter.

“Well, look, I’ve been married since I’m, since I was 19, I believe in tradition marriage” responded Scott.

Gay activists say the state is changing. Voters this past year elected two openly gay members of the state legislature. Joe Saunders even brought his partner for the swearing in.

Jim VanRiper of Equality Florida says the ruling should be seen by gay activists as a call to action.

“In the past, you know, maybe people didn’t pay much attention to it, but we are bringing to the forefront of attention and you know, I think we are going to see a significant drive in this day to repeal the Constitutional Amendment” says VanRiper.

“Gay activists have basically three options for trying to change the constitution,  they can come here to the legislator and get them to put it on the ballet, they can have an initiative petition or they can wait for four years for the constitution revisions commission.

And voters will still have a final say on any constitutional changes.

Asked if the he would defend a law suit if one were filed, Rick Scott didn’t hesitate.

“Yes, yes.” Said Scott, leaving no doubt he meant it.

Posted in State News | 3 Comments »

Gay Marriage Rally at State Capitol

March 25th, 2013 by flanews

It’s a big week for supporters of gay marriage. Two Supreme Court cases are putting the issue front and center and as Whitney Ray tells us, the cases could have implications here in Florida where gay marriage is banned in statute and in the state constitution.

Ahead of the trials, supporters of gay marriage held rallies across the nation Monday in preparation of two Supreme Court cases. At the Florida Capitol about 50 supporters showed up, some with signs. One man, holding a bible protested the rally.

The crowd mostly kept its cool, but one woman broke ranks to challenge the protestor.

“Yeah, for gay marriage being legalized in nine states and Washington DC and countries over the world. You are on the losing side buddy,” she told the protestor.

Polls show support for gay marriage is growing, with more than half the country in favor. Twenty-nine states, including Florida have same-sex marriage bans in their constitutions. Florida also has a ban written into statute.

High School Student Emalee Schierman is being raised by lesbians. She says it hasn’t negatively impacted her or her brothers and sisters.

“My three siblings are all smart, well-rounded and just as damage free as any children born from straight families,” said Emalee.

While the group rallied outside the state capitol, inside legislation creating a statewide domestic partnership registry has stalled. Susan Gage with PFLAG, the Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, says the Supreme Court cases could change everything.

“I hope that what ever might come out of the Supreme Court, if it is a positive decision for the gay and lesbian community, that they might go back and revisit this and pressing forward with marriage equality,” said Gage.

But they may not need too. Depending on how the court rules, Florida’s gay marriage ban may could be overridden. One of the two cases challenges California’s ban on gay marriage. If the US Supreme Court rules against the ban, that could render Florida’s ban unconstitutional.

Posted in State News | 1 Comment »

Gay Marriage Debate Rages

October 22nd, 2008 by flanews

With just 13 days to go until the election the debate over a constitutional ban on gay marriage is raging in Florida. Millions of dollars have been poured into the fight and as Whitney Ray tells us, opponents of the ban are calling their rivals on the carpet over how they raised their campaign contributions.

Hear it Here: Gay Marriage Debate Rages

Gay marriage is legal in Massachusetts, so supporters of a Florida ban on same sex marriages brought Massachusetts parents Rob and Robin Wirthlin here to tell their story.

He came home from school one day and he told us about a book his teacher had read. It was about a prince who didnt marry a princess, he married another prince. We were so surprised, said Robin.

Supporters of Amendment 2 raised more than a million dollars to push a constitutional ban on same sex marriages.

Opponents of the amendment have filed a complaint with the state saying Yes2Marriage broke election laws while collecting campaign contributions.

The group raised money through a third party charity in order to hide their donors identities. Yes2Marriage Chairman John Stemberger said so what.

Weve done everything legal. If our opponents dont like it, then theyll have to change the law, said Stemberger.

While the state was busy investigating the complaint, Stemberger and Progress Florida Policy Director Damien Filer debated the issue on a popular web show. Filer says if Amendment 2 passes, couples who live together, gay or straight will suffer.

What this is about is a threat to benefits, to health care benefits in Florida, said Filer.

This has nothing to do with benefits, said Stemberger.

Whether or not benefits for domestic partners would be affected is still unclear, but no matter what side wins, one thing is certain, gay marriage will remain illegal in Florida, since the state already passed a legislative ban. Opponents of the ban are asking television stations to pull the Yes2Marriage ads until the state finishes its investigation into the groups campaign financing.

Posted in Amendments, Children, Elections, State News | No Comments »

Marriage Proposal

July 8th, 2008 by Mike Vasilinda

Governor Charlie Crist talked at length with reporters at the state air pool Monday afternoon about his pending marriage to Carole Rome. Where will they live…Miami, St. Pete, or of course, the People’s House. Will the kids be with them? Some of the time. Even the Governor chuckled on one of the questions from Miami Herald reporter Mark Caputo.

Here the entire interview here

Posted in State News | No Comments »

Gay Marriage Ban Takes Hit From Michigan Court

May 8th, 2008 by flanews

Opponents of an amendment to ban gay marriage say the ban would deny some heterosexual couples rights. Yesterday a Michigan court ruled that a 2004 ban on gay marriage also deprived domestic heterosexual couples of their rights. Supporters of a state ban on gay marriage that will be on the November ballot say the proposed amendment is narrowly tailored and wouldnt affect domestic partners. Democratic Super-Delegate Allan Katz says the amendment would have the same affect in Florida as it had in Michigan.

“In Michigan today, there are 600 couples that are not eligible for state benefits that were eligible for them yesterday. And they had nothing to do with the issue of gay marriage,” said Katz.

Florida already has a ban on gay marriage. The proposed amendment would just strengthen the measure.

Posted in Elections, State News, Voting | No Comments »

Marriage Amendment Approved for November Ballot

February 2nd, 2008 by flanews

This November Floridians will have to decide if they want to ban same-sex marriage. The Marriage Amendment is just one of several issues petitioners tried to put on the ballot. Whitney Ray tells us which groups gathered enough signatures and what opponents of two of the most controversial amendments have to say.

Hear it here: Marriage Amendment Approved for November Ballot

It took years, but Florida4Families finally got enough signatures to put a gay marriage ban on the November ballot. The marriage protection amendment was one of seven petitions submitted to the Division of Elections.

Only one made it and will be on the ballot this fall and thats the amendment to prohibit same sex marriage, said Sterling Ivey, a spokesperson with the Secretary of State.

One controversial petition that didnt make the ballot was by Home Town Democracy. The proposed amendment would require local referendums on land-use changes. For the first time in Floridas history a group was able to collect signature to revoke names on the original petition. Barney Bishop, with Save Our Constitution, said his group used the new revocation process to revoke almost 20,000 signatures from the Hometown Democracy petition.

If theyre not told the truth in the beginning and you tell them youre version of the truth later on, they have a chance to make a choice, said Bishop.

Now the only choice left, of the seven petitions, is the marriage amendment. Florida already has a statute banning gay marriage. Supporters of the referendum said its not strict enough. They want to change the constitution to make sure the ban will hold up in court. Opponents of the amendment say Florida4Families is misleading voters.

Its a much broader agenda that would strip folks of basic rights they have through domestic partnership laws and privileges they enjoy on the corporate side that help them take care of their families, said Bill Phillips with Fairness for All Families, a group against the amendment.

Groups on both sides of the issue will be campaigning across the state as Floridians draw closer to what could be one of the biggest elections in recent history. Since the ban on gay marriage is being proposed as a constitutional amendment, at least 60 percent of the voters would have to approve it.

Posted in Amendments, State News, Voting | No Comments »

Hometown in Trouble? Marriage Headed for Ballot?

January 14th, 2008 by Mike Vasilinda

The Hometown Democracy Amendment could be in trouble. Newly released figures by the Secretary of State show only 501,530 signatures have been verified so far. Organizers have until February 1st to show 611,009 valid signatures. Organizers blame the state for not letting them know about problems in posting valid signature totals.

Florida For Marriage Protection is showing 589,020 valid signatures. These are the last totals we will be given until after the February 1st deadline.

Posted in Amendments, Elections, Politics, State News | No Comments »

Anti-Gay Marriage Amendment Gains Momentum

December 13th, 2007 by Mike Vasilinda

It appears certain that an anti gay marriage amendment will be on next Novembers ballot. The group Florida4Marriage said today it has gathered more than the required 611 thousand signatures to get a place on the ballot. The group claims not to have paid to gather any of the signatures. Bill Bunkley of the Florida Baptist Convention says that is because of the strength of his organization.

I want to remind everyone here that there are over one million Florida Baptists throughout the state of Florida and because this is unprecedented to have gathered 611,000 plus signatures, without people standing in post offices and shopping centers getting paid to do this, part of that in large part was through the efforts of Florida Baptists,” Bunkley said. “And so now we have a 60 percent threshold to look at in November of 2008. Were excited about that challenge.

Opponents of the amendment argue it will hurt seniors who live together. That argument help defeat a similar amendment in Arizona, the only state in which an anti gay marriage amendment has failed.

Posted in Amendments, State News | No Comments »

Gay Marriage Foes Say They are on the Ballot

December 13th, 2007 by Mike Vasilinda

For only the second time in history, Florida4 Marriage proponnents say they have gathered enough signatures to be on the ballot without paying for any of them. John Stemberger held a lengthy news conference this morning.

Hear it Here: Florida4Marriage News Conference

Posted in State News | No Comments »

Gay Marriage Debate

November 5th, 2007 by flanews

It looks like Florida voters will decide next year if they want a ban on gay marriages written into the state constitution. The group pushing the amendment, Florida4Marriage, says it only needs 13,000 more signatures to put the issue before voters in November 2008. But as Chris Casquejo tells us, opponents worry that domestic partner benefits could face legal challenges.

Hear it here: Gay Marriage Debate

A group called Florida4Marriage is closing in on its goal to gather more than 611,000 signatures. It needs just 13,000 more signatures to ask voters to ban gay marriages.
Early Dawson and his new bride Janet support the petition drive.

A man shouldnt marry another man and a woman shouldnt marry another woman, because it wasnt meant for that,” Dawson said.

In 2004, 11 states adopted constitutional bans on same sex marriages. Gay marriage is already illegal in Florida because of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. A constitutional change prevents judges from overturning the law to allow gay marriages.

A coalition of 25 groups is fighting the amendment. They say men and women who arent married could lose partner benefits. Peter Rosen, whos been with his partner for 14 years, is raising money for the effort.

This is just mean-spirited,” Rosen said. “We cant afford to lose this fight.

60 percent of voters would have to approve the amendment for it to become law.

Massachusetts is the only state to recognize same-sex marriages.

Posted in Amendments, Politics, State News, Voting | No Comments »

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