Equality Florida announces campaign to push for equal marriage rights

Published June 19, 2013

The gay rights group Equality Florida announced Wednesday its new "Get Engaged" campaign, a statewide effort to secure the right to marry for all Floridians.

"As the entire country awaits the Supreme Court's rulings, it is time for all who believe in equality and fairness to take a clear stand on the right side of history," the organization's executive director Nadine Smith said in a conference call.

What exactly Equality Florida will do to advance its agenda remains unclear.

Though education will play a central role in the campaign, Smith said, the specifics will largely depend on the ruling, which is expected to be announced this week or next. The group plans to hold a telephone town hall in which legal experts will explain the decision's ramifications for Florida.

The impact here, Smith noted, could be minimal because of the state's gay marriage ban, which passed with nearly 62 percent of the vote in 2008.

Recent polls show public opinion has since shifted, with a majority of Floridians now backing equal access to marriage for gay couples.

"While the fastest path to marriage equality in Florida is not yet certain, we do know that we will not just wait," Smith said. "We intend to win marriage and all options are on the table including new legal challenges and the possibility of going back to the ballot to overturn Florida's discriminatory ban."

Smith said it remains too soon to know if the organization will push for the ban's repeal on the 2014 ballot, but she implied it was unlikely.

For now, she said, building support statewide will be the campaign's primary goal.

Sue Fulton, a 1980 West Point graduate, also spoke on the conference call. She married her longtime partner in 2012.

She grew up in Stuart but now lives in New Jersey. Fulton said she would like to move back here, but not until Florida recognizes her marriage.

"My partner of 18 years," she said, "would be a legal stranger to me in Florida."