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Fight for Marriage Equality Ignites Below Mason-Dixon Line

PHOTO: Georgia state Rep. John Lewis speaks out in support for marriage equality in a campaign that started this week. Photo courtesy of Rep. Lewis
PHOTO: Georgia state Rep. John Lewis speaks out in support for marriage equality in a campaign that started this week. Photo courtesy of Rep. Lewis
February 27, 2014

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - A $1 million campaign began this week to help build support for marriage equality in the South. Southerners for the Freedom to Marry is a joint effort of several statewide and regional organizations. A recent poll of registered Southern voters shows support for same-sex marriage is now evenly split, and this effort aims to tip the scales.

Evan Wolfson, Freedom to Marry founder and president, is helping coordinate the campaign.

"We want to make sure that Southerners are getting the same chance that other Americans have had, to hear more about their neighbors, to learn about who gay families are and how we live, and to talk about why marriage matters," Wolfson said.

According to 2010 Census Bureau data, there are more than 48,000 same-sex couples living in Florida. Also according to the census, same-sex couples raising children are more common in Southern states than any other region in the country. Congresswoman Illeana Ros-Lehtinen is an honorary co-chair for the Southerners for the Freedom to Marry campaign.

As part of the new campaign, civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis of Georgia draws civil rights parallels to the fight for marriage equality in a public service announcement.

"I see the right to marriage as a civil rights issue. You cannot have rights for one segment of the population, or one group of people, and not for everybody," Lewis said.

Wolfson said Florida's Latino community is among the groups of people already in support of the freedom to marry.

"There are Latino voices and Latino families and a Latino majority who support the freedom to marry," he said. "There are people of faith who support the freedom to marry. The business community supports the freedom to marry."

Opponents of gay marriage believe the institution of marriage is intended for a man and a woman.

The public service announcement is at www.youtube.com.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - FL