Clashing Views on Gay Marriage to Descend on Orlando
Around the State
Expect a collision of very different social values Sunday in Orlando.
In the wake of a federal court ruling that overturned a ban on gay marriage in California, hundreds – maybe thousands – of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Floridians will rally in Orlando Sunday to celebrate and, as they promise in their press release, “spread a message of equality for all Americans.”
Trouble is, they’ve chosen the same day for their rally as the officials at National Organization for Marriage (NOM) did for theirs.
NOM is set to gather at First Christian Church in Winter Park; the LGBT group at nearby Orlando Joy Metropolitan Community Church.
“It was absolutely intentional,” said Ellen Johnson, who identified herself as an NOM spokesperson. “We’re in the middle of a 23-city ‘Summer for Marriage, One Man-One Woman Bus Tour.' We're coming from Atlanta and our stop in Orlando was planned months ahead, theirs was planned since last Wednesday.
“I can tell you, they’re only doing this to thumb their noses at us and at the institution of marriage between a man and a woman. Well, this is Florida, it isn’t California. We have some powerful people in this state who respect our state Constitution and the laws in it,” Johnson said.
Some of those “powerful people” are running for office. And if ever the National Organization for Marriage wanted to get them on the record in support of their conservative position – and believed they had a chance to do it – it’s now, one day from the start of early voting in Florida
"This being a big year for conservative values, I think the candidates will back us up," Johnson said.
Each of the two GOP gubernatorial candidates, Bill McCollum and Rick Scott, has said his conservative credentials outweigh the other’s. Yet, after U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that California’s Proposition 8 – a ban of marriage between same-sex couples – violated federal constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process, neither McCollum nor Scott has rushed to the defense of Florida’s similar constitutional ban.
A spokesman for Scott, Trey Stapleton, said Friday, “Rick Scott believes marriage is between a man and a woman.”
McCollum's campaign staff did not return Sunshine State News’ call.
Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, however, one of three GOP candidates for attorney general, issued perhaps the strongest pro-one-man-one-woman-marriage statement of any candidate in the 2010 race.
“Wednesday’s ruling in California turns on its ear more than 5,000 years of recorded history that establishes marriage is between a man and a woman,” Kottkamp said. “We must intervene in the appeal of this ruling to protect a similar constitutional amendment approved by nearly 62 percent of Floridians in 2008 … the framers of the Constitution would have never envisioned the 14th Amendment being blatantly distorted to attack traditional marriage.”
But, Shelbi Day, LGBT Advocacy Project staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, told Sunshine State News, "The Proposition 8 victory is nothing more than an indication that we can move ahead. It's an important preliminary victory. Expect Judge Walker's ruling to be appealed first to the 9th Circuit and then to the Supreme Court. It's going to take a long time."
Said Day, "What we continue to do here in Florida is to fight the ban on adoptions by gay couples, enacted 33 years ago. That's our major thrust right now."
Sunday's LGBT rally is co-sponsored by the ACLU, Equality Florida and Freedom to Marry. The groups are billing it as "Orlando Rally to Premier 'In Anita's Wake' Documentary; Celebrate LGBT Families and Landmark Victory in Proposition 8 Challenge."
Buddy Dyer, mayor of Orlando -- who apparently does not share the statewide candidates' conservative opinions -- has said he will issue a "proclamation in support of equality for all Floridians."
Meanwhile, Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry, would not admit the LGBT rally's scheduling on the same day, in the same town as the NOM rally, was intentional. He said, "In advertising their anti-gay bus tour, NOM referred to supporters of the freedom to marry as those who 'pillage the values of our nation.' We know that the American values of liberty, equality and justice for all are, in fact, for all Americans."
Said NOM's Johnson, "Believe me, these people aren't all sweetness and light. They can be very intimidating to the families on our bus. I wish they had stayed far away from us."
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at (850) 727-0859.