New PAC Launches to Overturn Florida’s Gay Marriage Ban
There's a new political action committee (PAC) in town called Equal Marriage Florida. It was created shortly before the Supreme Court rulings that returned same-sex marriage to California couples and denied the constitutionality of the federal government refusing to recognize same-sex marriages performed in the states.
Vanessa Brito, a Miami-based political consultant who ran the successful 2011 campaign to recall Miami-Dade commissioner Natacha Seijas, is the leader of the PAC which she created to overturn the Florida constitutional amendment defining marriage as between "one man and one woman, as husband and wife" to "a union of two persons."
I understand you're creating a bit of a stir with your objective of overturning Florida's anti-gay constitutional amendment.
I'm a true lesbian -- there always has to be drama. But I really believe our approach is the right one. And I say that as a long time supporter of Equality Florida. I'm on one of their steering committees and I think they do great work in the state.
Don't you think it would be better to support one organization rather than creating two?
There's no reason why we shouldn't take both approaches -- lawsuits and legislation. They complement each other and if one fails the other may work.
But doesn't it take away resources from both sides instead of focusing them on the common objective?
I don't think so. Some people want to go the lawsuit route and some want to go the voter route and they provide financial support for the method they prefer. I've told Equality Florida that we won't deplete the resources available to support marriage equality.
As I recall, back in 2008 when amendment 2 was being passed, a PAC was formed called "Florida Red and Blue." Is Marriage Equality Florida connected with that group?
No. No connection, and I don't think that group exists any longer. And we don't intend to exist after the marriage ban is removed from Florida laws and constitution.
When you first hit the social connectosphere you were hoping to get on the 2014 ballot, but just yesterday I saw a Facebook entry seeking signatures for 2016. Which is it?
We had hoped to get on the 2014 ballot because it's possible that the medical marijuana amendment will be up in '14. That would bring out a lot of liberal Democrats and students to help us muster the needed votes in a non-presidential year. On the other hand, 2016 is a presidential election and more people come out for that.
There's also the possibility that we won't collect enough signatures to get on the ballot in 2014 so we may have to wait until '16, anyway.
Just what are the signature requirements involved?
You need 68,000 signatures to get the attorney general to review the language and approve the amendment for consideration. You need 680,000 to then get the amendment on the ballot. With an estimated third of all signatures being disqualified for dozens of reasons, we figure 100,000 and a million signatures will be required to go all the way.
Exactly what does your amendment say?
Article I, Section 27 of the constitution currently defines marriage as a legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife, adding that no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state. We change that to read "Only a legal union of two persons shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state."
We also added a second paragraph in section 27 that talks about religious freedom and protects religious institutions from any obligation to officiate marriages between same-sex partners. We felt that was important since so many religious groups have expressed concern for their civil rights.
What's the situation right now?
As of two weeks ago we had 48,349 signatures toward our first 100,000. We currently have 12 co-chairs with responsibilities based on congressional districts or regional locations. You can read more about them on our website.
Any closing remarks?
Yes. We welcome support from anyone who wants to support our effort to change the law through the ballot. People can learn more and sign the petition on our website. If they need more information they can contact us at 786-548-5070 or by email at info@equalmarriageFL.com.