Florida Town Settles Lawsuit And Will Have to Revote On Town Charter Following Attempt To Sneak "Sexual Orientation" Amendment On The Ballot

Oct 27, 2004

Lake County, FL -- Today, Liberty Counsel filed a Consent Decree in state court on behalf of David Leuschner, Nancy Leuschner, and Bill Shepherd (collectively "Plaintiffs") in response to the Town of Montverde's (hereinafter "Town") unauthorized inclusion of "sexual orientation" to the Town Charter's definition of a protected class. The Plaintiffs are represented by Mathew Staver, President and General Counsel of Liberty Counsel, and Erik Stanley, Chief Litigation Counsel of Liberty Counsel. Liberty Counsel is a nonprofit litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of human life, and the traditional family.

The Town, situated 22 miles from Orlando, placed on the ballot for the November 5, 2002, election the following question: "Should the Town of Montverde, Florida, amend its Charter to delete antiquated, outdated clauses, and delete clauses superceded by state law adopted after the 1925 Charter and provide for the mayor to chair Town Council meetings in a nonvoting capacity?" The question passed by a majority of votes and then the Town substituted its 1925 Charter with a new Charter. The new Charter changed the powers of the Town Council and the Mayor, added a town attorney and an auditor, and added a "sexual orientation" nondiscrimination clause, among other things.

The manner in which the ballot question was framed was confusing. Unbeknownst to most of the citizens in the Town, several sections were added to the proposed new Charter prior to the vote, including the "sexual orientation" language. When the Charter passed, Liberty Counsel filed suit, arguing that the voters were not made aware of language that had been quietly put into the proposed Charter. The Plaintiffs would not have voted in favor of the Charter had they known about the "sexual orientation" language.

The Town has now agreed to remove the new provisions of the Charter and put the decision of whether or not to include "sexual orientation" as a protected class into the hands of the citizens. Furthermore, the Town will place the additional language onto the November 2, 2004, ballot in order that the citizens of the Town may vote on whether the Town Charter should be amended to include "sexual orientation" as a protected class.

Staver commented, "We are pleased that the Town officials have agreed that this issue should be decided by the voters of Montverde. Public officials must answer to the people who elect them. Instead of sneaking this proposal about 'sexual orientation' in the Charter by including it in a mass of other amendments, the people of Montverde will now exercise an intelligent vote on this important social, legal, and cultural issue."

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