Will Florida Ever Pass Same-Sex Marriage? 60 Percent Amendment Threshold Means It Could Take Awhile
If Floridians went to the polls today, literally this very day, there's a pretty good chance at least 50 percent of voters in the state would support gay marriage. Unfortunately, that still wouldn't mean there'd be gay wedding chapels popping up in Wilton Manors and South Beach by the end of the year. You need 60 percent to pass a constitutional amendment in Florida, which means the state could still be at least a decade away from seeing marriage equality.
A Quinnipiac poll from December 2012 showed that 43 percent of Floridians supported same-sex marriage. Forty-seven percent still opposed the idea. Twelve percent remained undecided.
A more recent Public Policy Polling survey from last month showed a slightly more favorable result. Thirty-eight percent of Floridians supported same-sex marriage, 37 percent supported civil unions, and only 23 percent flat-out opposed any legal recognition of same-sex unions. Two percent were "not sure." (A quick note to pollsters: Stop including civil unions as an option. Now that there is a big difference between civil unions and actual marriage thanks to the repeal of DOMA, there's not likely to be much effort or money put into passing civil unions anymore.)
So maybe an optimist might think, Well, all you've got to do is flip 60 percent of those civil union supporters to full-on marriage supporters, and you've got your 60 percent overall. Maybe the 2014 amendment Equal Marriage Florida is pursuing an attainable goal. After all, Rick Scott will be up for re-election. His Republican support at this point is lukewarm at best, and Democrats are eager to see him go, so it's possible you could see a more liberal-leaning midterm electorate than usual.
New York Times math whiz Nate Silver isn't that optimistic, though.
Yesterday he released a projection of gay marriage support across each state. He projects that by 2016, 52.9 percent of Floridians would support gay marriage. Florida and Virginia would be the first two Southern states where a majority would support gay marriage.
Unfortunately, we need that 60 percent. Silver projects that in 2020, 59.3 percent of Floridians would support gay marriage, at least according to polls. So according to him, only sometime in the 2020s would a state amendment legalizing gay marriage in Florida become a slam dunk.
However, Silver admits his projections might not be perfect.
"It's also possible, of course, that the Supreme Court decision could somehow kick-start public support for same-sex marriage, causing it to accelerate faster, or that the recent spate of Democratic and Republican politicians coming out in favor of it could do so," he writes.
Whatever the case, Floridians passing an amendment is a lot more likely than the legislature doing anything about it. We're talking about the legislative body that ignored a domestic partnership bill and instead passed a meaningless bong-banning bill this session, and with gerrymandering, it's unlikely Democrats will control either house anytime soon.
Doom-and-gloom projections or not, one activist is already taking a crack at a new amendment. Vanessa Brito has begun gathering signatures with the goal of hitting a million by February.