Should the Florida constitution ban same-sex couples from marrying?

That’s the question that will be put before the state’s voters next year, thanks to the efforts of Florida4Marriage.org, a coalition of groups led by Orlando lawyer John Stemberger.

The coalition announced late last week that after three years they have succeeded in gathering the 611,009 signatures needed to add the question to the November 2008 ballot, assuming all of them are verified.

The amendment will have to gain the support of at least 60 percent of voters for it to become enshrined in the state’s constitution.

“It’s obviously a challenge, but we believe more than 60 percent of Floridians agree that marriage is between a man and a women and is the best arrangement for raising children,” Stemberger told the Florida Times-Union following last week’s announcement.

Although Florida law already bans marriages between people of the same sex, Stemberger told The Associated Press that changing the state constitution would prevent judges from interfering.

“We believe kids need a mom and a dad, very simply,” he said.

“Moms and dads bring something different to the table. Dads are not optional.”

Opponents of the measure aren’t taking the actions of Florida4Marriage.org lightly.

A coalition that includes The Florida Education Association, The Florida Alliance for Retired Americans, the Florida NAACP and the Florida Consumer Action Network, in addition to gay-rights groups such as Equality Florida and First Coast Pride are busy getting their message out to potential voters, too.

“This so-called marriage amendment hurts all kinds of people who are trying to make a life together,” Carole Ann Steiger, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Northeast Florida, told the Florida Times-Union.

“It’s not a gay issue, it’s an equality (issue).

“It would be harder for people to take care of their loved ones such as by obtaining medical care,” she added, “and it would discriminate against those who live without marriage but who should have access to domestic partner benefits.”

If the measure ends up on the 2008 ballot and passes, Florida would become the 28th state to ban marriage between people of the same sex with a constitutional amendment.

Bryan Ochalla © 2007 GayWired.com; All Rights Reserved.