Proposal to delete same-sex marriage ban from Florida Constitution dies without a hearing

gay marriage Shutterstock (Large)
A lack of sufficient Senate sponsorship killed the bills.

Bills that would have given Florida voters a chance to remove a ban on same-sex marriage from the Florida Constitution have died without a hearing this year.

Technical snags due to inaction on the Senate side killed their viability, despite a last-minute push by the bills’ House sponsor to save them.

One measure (HJR 167) would have called for a statewide referendum during the 2024 General Election proposing the repeal of language in the state constitution defining marriage as only being between one man and one woman.

The other (HB 169) would effectuate HJR 167, upon voter approval, by deleting the definition from Florida Statutes.

Democratic lawmakers filed legislation for years to amend state law, but not the Constitution, to reflect the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that preempted state bans on gay and lesbian unions.

This time around, it was Miami Beach Republican Rep. Fabián Basabe who first championed the cause. The bills were the second and third he filed for the 2024 Session after a since-withdrawn measure to restrict abortion after 12 weeks of pregnancy, doubling a six-week limit lawmakers approved last year that pends Florida Supreme Court approval.

Basabe abstained from voting on the six-week ban last year. He also drew the ire of progressives and LGBTQ people for voting “yes” on several bills seen as discriminatory toward trans people. Two men who worked in his government office also sued him, alleging sexual harassment. A House investigation into the matter found “no evidence” of wrongdoing by Basabe, but suggested that he “exercise better judgment” when it comes to fraternizing with subordinates.

Basabe told Florida Politics in October that he filed HJR 167 and HB 169 “in good conscience with the hope of demonstrating bipartisan support” for a cause Democrats have almost exclusively championed. Accordingly, he said he deliberately forwent seeking a Republican Senate sponsor for the bill.

He engaged Miami Gardens Democratic Sen. Shevrin Jones, with whom he’d previously sparked a feud over legislation and district funding, to carry companions to the bills in the Legislature’s upper chamber.

Jones said he tentatively agreed and placed the bills in drafting. But his partnership came with a caveat that he and Basabe must speak with stakeholders in the LGBTQ community, including the advocacy group Equality Florida, which last year organized protests against Basabe and whose Political Director is now running to unseat him.

Basabe said Jones told him no such thing and that he never agreed to meet with the group. As the first day of Session approached, Jones still had not filed the companion bills. Basabe grew incensed.

“He never gave me a courtesy call. He never said he was having second thoughts, that right now I’m too partisan or controversial. He could have just flat-out said that … he wasn’t allowed to sponsor the bill,” Basabe said. “I would have said, ‘No problem. As long as you know I came to you first.’ But he just kept it there as a placeholder until it timed out to intentionally kill my bill, because knows exactly how the process works.”

Fabián Basabe sold his same-sex marriage bills as a way to soften the Legislature’s partisan divide. The resulting fallout likely hardened it. Image via LYNNE SLADKY/AP.

On the morning of Jan. 4, during a meeting of the Miami-Dade County Legislative Delegation, Basabe confronted Jones, the first gay person and first Black member of the LGBTQ community ever elected to the Senate, about the holdup.

An email he sent later that afternoon said, in part:

“We (have) yet to meet enough in person to know where we fully disagree. … As our filing deadline is tomorrow, I trust by now you have the approval of your supporters as well as the stakeholders you have referenced, (and) since you have had my bill in your silo since early autumn, I urge you to support and join me in this monumental effort. … You are a known homosexual and supporter of gay rights. Should you go against yourself and your own beliefs for bi partisan (sic) political reasons, I wish you the best.”

Jones told Florida Politics the next day that Basabe’s “passive aggressive” and impertinent approach repulsed him.

He also cast doubt on Basabe’s motive.

“In all my 13 years of being in the Legislature, I have never been disrespected in this manner, and I told him yesterday that I won’t be the one to sit here and allow him to do that,” he said. “I have no problem with Rep. Basabe. I have a problem with how he presents himself and handles people, (and) he knows good and well what he’s doing is not pure; he’s only doing this because of the backlash he’s gotten.”

With just hours remaining before the filing deadline, Jones released the bills, and Basabe scrambled to find another Senate sponsor. He asked Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book, who expressed interest but ultimately declined.

He then took the measures to Boca Raton Democratic Sen. Tina Polsky. Since 2021, Polsky has filed legislation similar to HB 169 with House support from St. Petersburg Democratic Rep. Michele Rayner, the first openly queer Black woman elected to the Legislature.

She did so again for the 2024 Session. But her bill (SB 160) and Basabe’s two bills didn’t match up. And the lack of a Senate analog to HJR 167 would not have allowed either bill to become effective, House Speaker-designate Daniel Perez said last week.

North Fort Myers Republican Rep. Spencer Roach, who chairs the subcommittee that would have first heard Basabe’s bills, agreed that taking up the measures would have been pointless because they lacked Senate support.

But HJR 167 is a reminder that the Florida Constitution should be updated, he said.

“Same-sex marriage has been legal in Florida since Jan. 6, 2015, as a result of a ruling in Brenner v. Scott from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida. This issue is settled law, and it’s not necessary to take additional action on this issue,” he said by email.

“However, the proposed HJR does underscore the need to rewrite the Florida Constitution, which is long overdue an update. I have no doubt this will be addressed when we start the work of crafting Florida’s seventh state Constitution.”

Shevrin Jones, a barrier-breaking LGBTQ legislator, found Basabe’s approach to lawmaking too unpalatable to stand, even for a cause he supports. Image via Colin Hackley/Florida Politics.

Back at home, Basabe enjoyed support from the Miami Beach City Commission, which voted unanimously on Jan. 31 for a resolution by Alex Fernandez urging the Legislature to adopt HJR 167 and HB 169.

Fernandez, who married his husband on the eve of the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling at the Florida embassy in Washington, said the cause transcends partisanship.

“What message do we send to the world amid turmoil and war and hate that we can’t come together, regardless of party, once and for all in the name of love and unity,” he said. “For as long as I hold public office, I will continue to advocate for inclusivity and for equal rights, for the right of people to love and marry who they choose.”

In a lengthy statement, quoted partially below, Basabe thanked Fernandez and the City Commission for supporting his legislation and took additional shots at Jones, whom he accused of poisoning his bills’ chances in the Senate.

He also decried the opposition his Democratic colleagues voice regularly in the House, where GOP lawmakers hold a supermajority and can push through or obstruct any legislation they choose.

“May the support I have locally in my district, set an example for partisan politics up in Tallahassee, where I was not only surprised, but disheartened not to have any collaboration on this most important bill. Anyone lucky enough to find love should have the same privileges, protections and responsibilities as any other civil union,” he said.

“Let it resonate loud and clear that Senator Shevrin Jones, in bad faith, held my Senate counterpart language up until the very last moment in his vengeful attempt to kill my Bill. He intentionally allowed it (to) time out by the filing deadline and only until political and media pressure (did he) release it to Senator Lauren Book, who considered filing on the Senate side, only to learn that Senator Jones had notified every advocacy group to pressure Senator Book not to work with me and even though she didn’t, or rather couldn’t, I still admire her consideration.

“While Senator Polski (sic) had partial and similar language in a different bill, this was not enough to move my joint resolution forward. I am proud of the Republican Party for not asking me to withdraw my bill and remain optimistic — but to the contrary, disturbed by the lack of interest of Save, Equality Florida and National LGBTQ task force, (because) none of them supported or even acknowledged this effort of (equality) for all. These activist arms of the (Democratic National Committee) have once again FAILED!”

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


  • Hung Wiil

    February 26, 2024 at 2:55 pm

    Cry me a river. Now can we back to cutting taxes?

    • defunded and forgotten florida

      February 26, 2024 at 3:53 pm

      There are no taxes to cut, Incel Willie.

      No income tax.

      Not enough floridians to make an effective Real Estate tax base; your entire interior 2.4 million square miles is swampy & suited for little.

      21 million people but not nearly enough tax base for a gigantic peninsula. And now we are seeing you defunded;

      shrinking insurance pool participants, rising interest rate on your bond borrowing (no more 3% bonds, sry not sry).

      Act IV:

      • Hung Wiil

        February 26, 2024 at 4:05 pm

        Roger that, genius. Spoken like someone who doesn’t have a net tax liability. Yeah, I want fries with that. Biggie size.

        • Christian Nationalist florida

          February 26, 2024 at 8:58 pm

          NYC resident; you couldn’t be more wrong. Again.

          Only place that is triple-taxed and we have no gators, no pythons, Burmese or otherwise, and 40 theater on Broadway alone.


  • Dont Say FLA

    February 26, 2024 at 3:16 pm

    In Florida, state constitutions are for banning things, not for enumerating rights.

    Also in Florida, voting is allowed by G0P leaders only when it doesn’t make any difference.

    Florida. Where old people go to stay warm till they die.

    • Hung Wiil

      February 26, 2024 at 3:32 pm

      Don’t Say Ye. Maybe read Article I of the state constitution.

      • Dung Will 💩

        February 26, 2024 at 8:59 pm

        You aren’t a reader; imagine.

        • Dont Say FLA

          February 27, 2024 at 7:29 am

          Article I, aka the hook. Read the rest of it, Hung.

Comments are closed.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704