Extremists Held Back in Florida with Defeat of Anti-Gay Amendment

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12/23/1996

(NEW YORK, December 23, 1996) Turning back the extremist right in northern Florida, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund Monday secured the final defeat of an anti-gay amendment in Alachua County.

Concerned Citizens of Alachua County, the right wing group that sponsored the initiative, let pass the deadline to appeal the November 22 ruling that struck down the anti-gay measure.

"This victory hammers another nail in the coffin of anti-gay initiatives nationwide," said Lambda Staff Attorney Suzanne B. Goldberg, who argued on behalf of the organization at a November 15 hearing in the case, Morris v. Hill. "It was wise of the County to stop wasting money and energy on this litigation. We're relieved that CCAC did the same, avoiding a suit over whether that organization could force continuation of this case even after the County acknowledged that the amendment was illegal."

Morris v. Hill was a challenge brought by Lambda on behalf of a group of plaintiffs who are civil rights advocates, including members of the lesbian and gay, African American, and people with disabilities communities, as well as members of a variety of local churches and mainstream political organizations. Alachua County was the defendant named in the case, and the CCAC intervened and added itself as a defendant because of its asserted interest as the sponsor of the challenged measure.

Amendment 1 would have banned the Alachua County Board of Commissioners from adopting any ordinance that would prohibit classification or provision of civil rights protections based on sexual orientation. State Circuit Court Judge Frederick D. Smith ruled in November that Amendment 1 was legally indistinguishable from Colorado's anti-gay Amendment 2. Last May, the United States Supreme Court found that amendment to Colorado state law unconstitutional under the equal protection clause in Romer v. Evans.

"This victory benefits all Alachua County residents, gay and non-gay alike, by bringing us one step closer to equality," said Lambda Legal Director Beatrice Dohrn. "At this juncture, only one anti-gay initiative remains under review: Cincinnati's Issue 3. We anticipate that the federal appeals court examination of that initiative, ordered by the Supreme Court, soon will put an end to this unfortunate chapter in our history."

Dohrn added, "The extremist right's tactic of using voter initiatives to bash lesbians and gays has been virtually crushed thanks to the Supreme Court's clear statement in Romer that homophobia cannot be turned into law."

Lambda, the oldest and largest lesbian and gay legal organization, was also co-counsel in the Romer case and leads the legal challenge in the Cincinnati case.

Lambda's cooperating attorneys in the Alachua County case are Walter Reiman, Jacqueline Charlesworth, and Jamie Shapiro of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison in New York, and Larry Turner and Robert Griscti of Turner & Griscti, P.A., in Gainesville.

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