- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 28, 2005

A conservative coalition in Florida says it has passed its first milestone to get a marriage constitutional amendment on the November 2006 ballot.

About 70,000 certified signatures in favor of the amendment, which would define marriage as the union of one man and one woman, have been sent to state officials, John Stemberger, president of Florida4Marriage.org, said last week.

This is more than enough to trigger a required review of the amendment’s language by the Florida Supreme Court, he said.

The petition drive continues because Florida4Marriage.org must collect a total of 611,009 certified signatures by Feb 1, 2006, Mr. Stemberger said.

“Time is of the essence for us,” he said, because “our internal deadline” is to get almost 1 million signatures before January.

Florida is one of five states with petition drives for marriage constitutional amendments. The changes are intended to prevent courts from legalizing homosexual “marriage.”

In Massachusetts, a petition drive is on hold while a constitutional amendment awaits certification from state Attorney General Tom Reilly.

If he approves the amendment, supporters with VoteOnMarriage.org plan to collect 120,000 signatures between September and November. The amendment then must pass the legislature twice before going to voters.

However, homosexual-rights groups and their allies are urging Mr. Reilly to reject the amendment as unconstitutional. A Massachusetts court legalized same-sex “marriage” in November 2003 and the proposed amendment would illegally reverse that judicial decision, they say. Supporters of the amendment say it is written legally.

Mr. Reilly’s decision is due by Sept. 7.

Meanwhile, in California, voters are being asked to sign petitions for competing marriage amendments.

ProtectMarriage.com and VoteYesMarriage.com both tout their amendments as the best way to preserve traditional marriage and both are seeking 1 million signatures.

In Arizona, a group called Protect Marriage Arizona has been collecting signatures since May. Its goal is at least 184,000 signatures by July 2006.

In Illinois, a group called Protect Marriage Illinois is seeking to collect 500,000 signatures by April. Its amendment, if passed by voters, would be “advisory” in nature — “it calls upon the legislature to pass a real amendment,” campaign leader Pete LaBarbera said.

Voters in 18 states have enacted marriage constitutional amendments, although the one in Nebraska has been thrown out by a federal judge.

Texas lawmakers put a marriage amendment on the November 2005 ballot; lawmakers in Alabama, South Dakota, South Carolina and Tennessee have set similar votes in 2006.

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