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Friday, June 28, 2013

Repeal and Replace Amend 2 Now

Florida voters need to remove the term Prop 8 from their heads. It's gone now and it never affected them in the first place.

In all the excitement about rulings this week, entirely too much attention has been placed on Prop 8. Certainly, it's a big deal that same-sex marriage is legal in the largest state of the union, but more most of America, it is still against the law. And many Florida liberals have appeared startlingly unaware for years that on the same day California passed a law dashing marriage equality in one Sunshine State, Florida voters were preemptively discriminating against homosexuals here in the other one.

I imagine most of the readers on this obscure blog understand the landmark court decisions this week didn't legalize gay marriage nationwide. It's much more complicated. If you happen to live in one of a dozen states where court rulings, legislative action or voter referendum has come down on the side of human rights, your fight is over. But for Florida and 37 other states, the fight has only just begun.

Here, we need to do two things, and they won't be easy.

First, we need to repeal Amendment 2. More specifically, we need to call back the referendum voters in Florida passed in Florida by more than a 20-point margin. Yes, the same day our state swung for Barack Obama, 4.9 million voters placed in our constitution an amendment forbidding the legislature from treating homosexuals like everybody else. Of course, Barack Obama was opposed to gay marriage too, so perhaps we shouldn't put so much in that.

I doubt this amendment could pass today. Remember, it takes a 60-percent vote to change Florida's constitution now, and with 61.92 percent of the vote in '08, this barely made it. We have seen the country make enormous leaps and strides in the direction of equality since then. Not only have we won over the White House, we have rolled Florida's own Democratic Senator Bill Nelson and three non-Rubio Republicans senators, and even Marco "I have grappled as well" Rubio turned a little squishy on the issue this week after the Supreme Court ruling.

Of course, the 60-percent rule works both ways. We need more than a bare majority to yank this out of Florida constitution. As Nadine Smith of Equality Florida said this week, civil rights supporters can't get over-jubilant. We have hard work ahead. "When the Supreme Court ruled, the country shifted and we ought to celebrate it, savor it, and just bask in it," Smith told the Orlando Sentinel. "But the question is how long are you willing to wait? How quick marriage equality comes to Florida is entirely up to you."

The Republican-dominated Legislature in Florida is not going to put this back on the ballot for us. Don't even bother placing those calls. We need to start gathering petitions to get a repeal of Amendment 2 on the ballot now. Equality Florida does seem the best group to spear-head this, but seems to just be in the support-gathering stages now. Fine, but we have the momentum now and need to move with it. It's going to take in the neighborhood of 700,000 legally-signed petitions to get a new constitutional amendment on the statewide ballot. Even then, we likely can't get on the ballot until November 2014

And now for Step 2.

I believe we can probably put another referendum on the ballot at the same time mandating lawmakers to legalize same-sex marriage. Of course, we could just repeal the ban and count on the Florida Legislature to do the right thing here, but if you think that will happen, the word naive is too soft.

No, we need to mandate this or prepare to wait another generation for Tallahassee to catch up. I for one favor the former.

This repeal and replace methodology has its built-in challenges, I know. That 60-percent rule slices both ways and while I doubt marriage opponents could pass a ban today, it requires some heavy lifting now to change what they accomplished five years ago. In the last mid-term elections, we saw about 5 million voters casting ballots on constitution referenda. That means we need to get at least 3 million voters to come out in support of a repeal on the old Amendment 2 and support of a new amendment validating the right of homosexuals to get married.

It's a tough fight, but on worth the effort. And it's a fight that shouldn't wait. The tide is moving our way and we need to move with it. Supporters of marriage equality especially shouldn't find themselves trying to stand against the tide out of political fear or trepidation.

P.S. I realize numbering these things is stupid and there's a different Amendment 2 every election. I'm sorry. This is how it works. But hey, maybe we can make a repeal Amendment 2 and really confuse the old wingers about which sign to put in their yard.

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