Suit challenges Florida town's gay rights law

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com March 21 2003 1:00 AM ET

Three residents of Montverde, Fla., sued the town Wednesday to remove a provision banning sexual orientation-based discrimination from the town's newly revised charter. The lawsuit, filed in Lake County circuit court, asks that the town's new charter be rescinded. Montverde, located 22 miles northwest of Orlando, has fewer than 1,000 residents.

David and Nancy Leuschner and Bill Shepherd argued in court papers that town residents weren't told in detail what specific changes would be made to the charter. They are being represented by the Liberty Counsel, a conservative legal group that usually defends religious rights.

Last November a majority of town voters approved a ballot question asking "Should the Town of Montverde, Fla., amend its charter to delete antiquated, outdated clauses, and delete clauses superseded by state law adopted after the 1925 Charter and provide for the mayor to chair Town Council meetings in a nonvoting capacity?" The new charter added a town attorney and a town auditor and included sexual orientation as a characteristic covered by the nondiscrimination clause.

"The question presented on the ballot must be sufficiently narrow to put the citizens on notice of the impact of their vote," Mat Staver, an attorney for the Liberty Counsel said. "Merely saying that the charter will delete 'outdated and antiquated' sections is insufficient."