Fla. amend. 'deceptive' mailer decried

by James A. Smith Sr., posted Monday, May 19, 2008 (10 years ago)

ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)—Florida voters who signed petitions to place a proposed constitutional marriage amendment on the November ballot are receiving from opponents a mailing that one leader in the pro-amendment campaign is calling "dishonest and factually incorrect."

John Stemberger, chairman of "Yes On 2," the committee sponsoring the amendment, told the Florida Baptist Witness the deceptive mailing is the just the beginning of the campaign that will be waged against the marriage amendment.

Persons who signed petitions that successfully got the marriage amendment on the November general election ballot started receiving the mailing in mid-May from Florida Red & Blue, a political action committee formed to defeat the marriage amendment.

"This type of deception is just the tip of the iceberg," Stemberger said. "These people have $2.5 million and they are going to use every penny of it to try and mislead and deceive Florida voters. We must be prepared for the avalanche of misinformation and dishonesty which will be upon us in the months to come."

Amendment 2 reads, "Inasmuch as marriage is the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife, no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized."

The letter, made available to the Witness by a reader May 12, tells petition signers "it's likely you were misinformed about what the amendment does and who it will impact.

"People collecting petitions aren't always honest about the issues they're pushing -- especially if they're paid by the signature," the letter continues.

The undated letter was signed by Dwain Wall, board member of Florida Red & Blue.

The mailing includes a reply card asking recipients if they actually signed a petition, how they intend to vote on Amendment 2 and whether petition signers were "informed that this proposal could eliminate existing legal protections and benefits for all unmarried Floridians whether they are gay or not."

The reply card also asks, "If you knew that Amendment 2 could take away existing benefits and legal protections, would you have signed the petition to place it on the ballot?"

The mailing is "deceptive" and contains "false and misleading information to what appears to be hundreds of thousands of voters," Stemberger said in a May 14 news release.

Formerly known as "Florida4Marriage.org," the "Yes on 2" coalition launched a new website last month, Yes2Marriage.org.

Stemberger, an Orlando attorney and president of the Florida Family Policy Council, said Florida Red & Blue is attempting to "trick Floridians and misguide voters" rather than "debate the policy issue of whether homosexual marriages are good for Florida."

Stemberger said the mailing's claim that paid petition gatherers were used "is a deliberate and verifiably false statement.

"At no time during the collection of marriage petitions were paid petition gatherers used," Stemberger continued. "One hundred percent of the petitions were collected by volunteer citizens in communities throughout Florida."

Nearly 650,000 valid petitions were collected to get the amendment on the ballot, easily surpassing the 611,000 petition threshold requirement.

The letter's claim that petition signers were misinformed is "an insult to the intelligence" of voters who know the "importance of marriage to children, families and the common good of society. Florida wants the people and not judges deciding this issue," Stemberger said.

Stemberger also said the claim that the marriage amendment may take away rights is disputed by the Florida Supreme Court's advisory opinion affirming that the amendment solely addresses the matter of marriage.

"The fact is that every legal authority in Florida holds that Amendment 2 does one thing and one thing alone. It defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman, and it does not affect existing rights in any way."

Stemberger noted that Wall, the signer of the Florida Red & Blue letter, is a managing partner of an "exclusively gay and lesbian residential community" in Palm Beach.

"The leaders of Florida Red and Blue would do a huge service to the people of Florida if they simply came clean and discussed the real issue addressed by the amendment –- protecting marriage between a man and a woman," Stemberger said. "The fact is that they cannot debate the public policy merits of same-sex marriage because they are afraid they will lose like they have in the 27 other states which have also protected marriage in their state constitutions by overwhelming majorities."


James A. Smith Sr. is executive editor of the Florida Baptist Witness, online at www.FloridaBaptistWitness.com.

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