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State GOP sinks $150,000 more into antigay marriage initiative

Determined to get a gay marriage ban on the ballot for Florida voters, the state Republican Party has doubled its initial investment in the effort to $300,000.

State Senate President Tom Lee said the additional $150,000 came after Florida4marriage.org, the political committee working to amend the state Constitution, failed to get enough signatures in time to qualify for the 2006 ballot.

Lee, R-Valrico, said he embraced the extra $150,000 donation because Florida4Marriage still wants to get the measure on the ballot in 2008.

"I supported it because I know it's an important issue to Republicans. I know it may not be more important than tax cuts, it may not be more important than property rights or whatever, but it is an element, just as the sanctity of life issues are an element of importance of our party," Lee said. He noted that lawmakers in 2005 spent days debating whether to try to force feeding tubes back into Terri Schiavo.

State Democratic Party spokesman Mark Bubriski had a different take: "It looks like they're afraid they can't win on the issues that actually matter to Floridians - issues like port security, offshore drilling, prescription drugs and class size reduction," he said.

By many accounts the marriage amendment stands to mobilize religious conservatives who would likely vote Republican. Lee is running for chief financial officer but said that has nothing to do with his supporting the party financing the effort.

Campaign finance reports revealed in January that that state party contributed $150,000 of the $193,000 donated to the "marriage protection" ballot initiative. The second contribution confirmed by Lee Monday has not yet shown up in public records.

Gov. Jeb Bush has argued the amendment isn't necessary because Florida law already bars same-sex marriage, and said in January he was unaware of the party contribution. Lee said he assumed other party leaders signed off on the checks just as he did.

Adam C. Smith can be reached at (727) 893-8241 or adam@sppimes.com.

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