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Fla. gay rights group endorses Charlie Crist for governor

Fla. gay rights group endorses Charlie Crist for governor
Charlie Crist
Charlie Crist Chris O'Meara, AP

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. — Florida’s largest gay rights advocacy group has endorsed Democrat Charlie Crist for governor.

Equality Florida officials made the announcement Thursday at a lesbian and gay visitors center in Miami Beach. The endorsement is a boon for Crist, who still faces some skepticism from Democratic activists who consider his political conversion dubious.

When he ran for governor eight years ago as a Republican, Crist opposed same-sex marriage. In 2010, when he ran for U.S. Senate as an independent, he declared his support for civil unions. Now, running for his old job as a Democrat, Crist says he backs same-sex marriage and supports legal efforts to overturn Florida’s constitutional ban.

“The early endorsement reflects the urgency of electing a Governor who will speed progress when it comes to equality, not stand in the way of fairness,” said Stratton Pollitzer, chair of the PAC.

“Florida is at a critical moment in our struggle to end discrimination, and the next Governor will have a tremendous impact on the everyday lives of LGBT people in our state,” added Pollitzer. “Charlie Crist has taken a clear stand for equality and fairness and is delivering a message that will inspire the growing pro-equality majority in our state to stand on the right side of history.”

A former Republican Governor turned Democratic contender, Crist has has apologized for votes that aligned him with his former party’s platform, which he says went against his own conscience, and says he is working to be a voice for full equality under the law for the LGBT community.

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In recent years, Crist has come out in support of marriage equality, while Republican Gov. Rick Scott has said he supports the state’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

The the topic could become a wedge issue in a state where recent polls find that a majority of Florida voters now back same-sex marriage.

“Charlie Crist’s position on marriage equality reflects the evolution of Florida voters,” said Pollitzer. “The clear majority now supports full legal recognition of marriage equality, and that support is growing rapidly regardless of political party, age or religious identification.”

With marriage equality looming on Florida’s horizon, “We must have a pro-equality Governor in the Tallahassee,” added Pollitzer.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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