For months South Florida voters have been inundated with ads from candidates eager for their support. But many voters are surprised when issue ads like this pop up:
"Amendment 2 does only one thing – defining marriage as a union of a man and a woman. That’s it. When you vote – say 'yes' to pass life to the next generation."
Amendment 2 was put on the ballot by the group Florida – 4 – Marriage. The ballot initiative would do what the ad says: limit marriage to one man and one woman.
Sarah Seitz is with the Liberty Counsel, a conservative Christian group that helped write the anti-gay marriage amendment. She says even though Florida law already defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman, more is needed: "The constitutional amendment is necessary to prevent activist judges from thwarting the will of the people, over throwing the will of the people and basically ignoring the laws that are already in place."
The amendment would also ban civil unions. That could be a concern for many heterosexual couples as well. Derrick Newton is the campaign manager for Florida Red and Blue, which is heading up the opposition. He says the vague wording is ironic: "Because amendment 2 has all this undefined language in it, its gonna trigger a wave of litigation. And the very activist judges they claim to be worried about will be deciding what this amendment means."
Social issues played a major role in the last two presidential races, but not this one. This year the focus is the economy. Seitz says that is why the ballot initiative is important: "Well I think that given the opportunity to vote on a values issue will bring out values voters, regardless of who is on the presidential ticket."
Casey Klofstad (Kloff-stad) is a political science professor at the University of Miami. He says he hasn’t seen a ground swell around the amendment . . . even from the right: "I think it is going to be a very small minority of voters that would be, you know, swayed to go out to the polls just because of this. When it’s an open seat, when it’s a competitive race, when, you know, the economy is in the toilet, people are already motivated to come out to the polls regardless of there is a gay marriage ballot initiative."
There is another X factor in this year’s presidential election – tens of thousands of new voters. Christina Wilfore is the Executive Director for the left leaning Ballot Initiative Strategy Center. She says all the new voters could help defeat the anti-gay marriage initiative: "because young voters are more accepting, are more understanding of marriage equality and are more understanding of laws that create that."
Florida’s presidential race is tight. And Professor Klofstad concedes the ballot initiative could have a small impact . . . and he says even a small impact could be meaningful: "The mobilization of any one sub-constituency of voters could have a significant effect on the outcome."
A recent Mason Dixon poll showed fifty five percent of Floridians support the gay marriage ban. Florida law requires sixty percent to pass. If it fails voters may see it again in two years. But until then experts say the initiative probably won’t cause many political waves, just a few ripples.
"Capitol News Connection's" Matt Laslo filed this report for WLRN-Miami Herald News.
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