GOP top backer of marriage amendment


Published: Friday, January 13, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 12, 2006 at 11:47 p.m.
The Republican Party of Florida is by far the biggest financial backer of a proposed ballot initiative that would change the state constitution to prohibit gay marriage.
The party gave the Florida4Marriage.org $150,000 in November, which accounts for more than three-quarters of what the group raised over the entire year, according to a campaign finance report submitted by the group this week.
"Their support both financially and through endorsements is very significant," John Stemberger, chairman of the petition effort, said Thursday.
The group wants the Florida constitution to define marriage as the union between one man and one woman. Florida law already states the same.
So far about 172,000 signatures have been certified out of the 611,000 signatures needed by Feb. 1 to get the initiative on the ballot. Both Republican gubernatorial candidates - Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher and Attorney General Charlie Crist - have endorsed the effort. It has not been endorsed by either of the Democrats running for governor, U.S. Rep. Jim Davis and state Sen. Rod Smith.
Florida Democratic Party Chairman Karen Thurman said Republicans probably are trying to find another reason to get its conservative Christian base out to the polls. She also said Republicans are supporting the initiative because they know it's a divisive issue.
"I don't like when we get into debates about something of this nature when it becomes very divisive," she said. "It seems to me that there are issues like health care and education and living wages and other issues like that that should be the center of the debate."
She also noted that Republican Gov. Jeb Bush has said the amendment isn't needed.
"It's the law. That has been the whole issue that the governor has raised in this. So what is the purpose?" Thurman said.
Republican Party of Florida Chairman Carole Jean Jordan appeared with the initiative's backers at a press conference last week and issued a statement supporting the effort.
"This isn't a partisan issue," she said Thursday. "It's a family values issue and the fact that the Democrat party doesn't support it shows just how far they are out of the mainstream."
While the Democratic Party may not be contributing to the initiative, Stemberger said the group is seeing support from Democratic voters.
"I'm not as concerned about people's motivations, whether it's principal, policy or politics. I'm just concerned with getting this passed," he said.

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