Equality Florida, the state gay rights organization, said Wednesday it’s launching new effort to enact gay marriage in the Sunshine State.
It’s called “Get Engaged,” described as a “statewide call to action with the goal of securing the freedom to marry in Florida.”
The strategy, outlined by the organization’s executive director, Nadine Smith, was somewhat vague. She announced the goal in a conference call with reporters, but didn’t say just what that strategy would entail.
It’s unlikely that same-sex marriage advocates will attempt to get a referendum on the November 2014 ballot to remove a ban on gay marriage from the Florida Constitution. Voters added the ban in 2008, but since then Smith said “Florida has changed dramatically.”
Smith said “all options are on the table,” which, in theory, means a 2014 referendum is possible.
“We’re not in a position to say that that’s the best course. So I would say the best answer is we’re not committed to the 2014 ballot. But every option remains on the table. It will depend on a lot of factors, including the immediate response to the Supreme Court decision,” she said
“The path ... is not yet certain. We’ve got to see precisely what the Supreme Court rules. We do know that we’re not content to wait.”
Though she said advocates would love to see the Supreme Court make same-sex marriage the law of the land in rulings expected by the end of the month, she said that’s not realistic.
“For those of us who have been living without these rights, we can’t help but hold out some sliver of hope that as the justices look at these cases they find that barring us from all the rights and responsibilities of marriage is untenable,” she said. “No mater what, we are prepared.”
As soon as the Supreme Court issues opinions, Smith said, Florida advocates for same-sex marriage will begin to educate the public about the reality in Florida.’
“The heart of this effort is a public education campaign to shift public opinion,” she said. The public education effort will involve “everyday Floridians, celebrities, elected leaders all stand[ing] up and make their support absolutely clear.”
Smith said she thinks it will pay off, though she doesn’t know exactly when.
“Too many people have written of the South as the last place that justice will eventually trickle down. We aim to prove them wrong and understand that history and the numbers are now firmly on our side,” she said.
Also on the Equality Florida conference call speaking in favor of same-sex marriage was Army veteran Sue Fulton, a native of Stuart who now lives in New Jersey.
She graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1980, the in the first West Point class to include women. She rose to the rank of captain in the Army. More recently, she and her wife were married in the chapel there.
She said she and her wife would like to retire someday to Florida, where her father’s family has lived for six generations and her mother’s for nine generations.
But, she said, “my partner of 18 years would be a legal stranger to me in Florida.”
When he was a Republican, then-Gov. Charlie Crist supported the 2008 constitutional amendment that placed a ban on same-sex marriage in the Florida Constitution. Now a Democrat likely to seek his new party’s nomination for governor in 2014, his position has changed.
Although Smith said, “I’m not a mind reader,” she said she didn’t doubt Crist’s sincerity. “I wouldn’t dismiss it, because I think it reflects the journey a lot of people h ave been on.”