A $30,000 settlement has been reached in a lawsuit brought by advocates for traditional family after a Florida cop working security for a conference badgered them and mocked marriage by kissing another male officer, according to officials for the organization promoting a Florida constitutional amendment that would define marriage as involving only one man and one woman.
The civil rights case was brought in the Southern District of Florida by Alliance Defense Fund-allied attorney Frederick “Rick” Nelson of the American Liberties Institute on behalf of the Florida Family Police Council for violations of the U.S. Constitution.
The harassment happened during a 2006 Promise Keepers conference at Bank
Atlantic Center in Ft. Lauderdale, when Sunrise police Sgt. Stephen Allen approached a table set up there to seek signatures on petitions to put the constitutional amendment on the Florida ballot.
Sgt. Stephen Allen, right, kisses another officer to mock Christians who were gathering petition signatures for a marriage amendment in Florida (Florida Family Policy Council)
According to a report from the Florida Family Policy Council, it had paid $800 to set up the table under a large tent at the conference. At the table, volunteers were busy collecting signatures when Allen, the duty officer “hired by the Broward-owned civic center,” approached and told volunteers the petitions could not be collected or be in “public view.” He ordered their immediately removal.
“The volunteers said they were mocked, harassed and threatened with being arrested for collecting the petitions, and then Allen personally confiscated the petitions. Sgt. Allen and Officer M. Allard, both male officers, further ridiculed the effort by appearing to kiss each other,” the report said.
Allen was backed up by four other Sunrise officers and continued to argue “theology” even after Promise Keepers’ own security and event officials arrived and tried to explain to the officers the petitions were authorized.
John Stemberger, president of the Florida Family Policy Council, said that while it was obvious Allen supported homosexual marriage and disagreed with the petition, he “respectfully asked Sgt. Allen what law or ordinance was being violated.”
“In response, Allen ignored my requests and unbelievably started lecturing us on his opinion that ‘Jesus never addressed homosexuality,’ and that the petition effort was a ‘waste of time,'” Stemberger reported.
He said he consulted his attorney and decided to stand firm.
“I put the petitions back on the table and stood in between the petitions and Sgt. Allen. I told him that he had no legal authority for his order and that he would have to arrest me because he was in direct violation of the United States Constitution,” he reported.
The situation was defused by civic center officials who told Allen to back off.
“We felt strongly that we had to file the suit to send a clear message to Sgt. Allen and all other gay rights advocates who are intolerant of those who have a different view than them that such intimidation will not be tolerated in free society,” Stemberger said.
The amendment plan, which was assembled by Yes2Marriage.org, was certified on Feb. 1 to appear on the Nov. 4 ballot, where a yes vote will be to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
The organization is a coalition of thousands of families, churches, seniors, organizations, community leaders and elected officials who seek to protect the definition of marriage.
That group says, “Since the beginning of time, the institution of marriage has been the cornerstone of every society and civilization. And yet, a handful of homosexual activists and unrestrained, activist judges are trying to redefine marriage and force that new definition onto the rest of society. We believe that our children’s future is too important to let this attack on the American family and on Florida go unanswered.”
Already voters in 27 states have approved such a definition of marriage, and votes also are scheduled this year in Arizona and California, where judges on the state Supreme Court wrote in an opinion earlier this year a choice of sexual lifestyle wasn’t grounds to prevent same-sex duos from being “married.”