In a historic June ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the federal Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, injecting new enthusiasm into the gay marriage movement throughout the country. In Florida, gay rights activists postponed pursuing an effort to put on the November 2014 ballot an initiative that would undo the ban on gay marriage. But they haven't ruled out a legal challenge to the constitutional ban such as those being fought in other states.
The courts are "counting these ordinances around the country," Stemberger said. "It's a piece of the puzzle of what a court does to make decisions they don’t have a basis for in law.
Stemberger argues that the ordinances may mislead gay couples into believing they have rights they aren't entitled to without proper estate planning or durable powers of attorney.
"I do think it's harmful to them in a weird sort of way," he said.
Social conservatives may have stayed mostly on the sidelines about the Pensacola ordinance --- no one spoke against the proposal at two public hearings on the issue --- but they won't remain mum about gay marriage or an anti-discrimination law.
The registry "isn't something to get into a yelling match over," said Tampa Bay evangelical radio host Bill Bunkley, president of the Florida Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
"The moment you start talking about an active campaign to change the Florida marriage amendment in the constitution as opposed to this registry I suggest you would see all of the robust opposition on the right from social conservatives. There is a distinct difference," he said.
Stemberger said his organization and others are "going to spend a lot of time and money opposing" anti-gay discrimination laws like the one Saunders is pushing. The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled this summer that a photographer could be liable for refusing to provide service to a gay couple for their same-sex commitment ceremony.
"If I refuse to facilitate as a landlord what I consider to be immoral conduct …I am then faced with a lawsuit because I can't practice my faith. There's enormous encroachment upon a private enterprise, a private property," he said. "It's one thing to prevent them from doing it. It's another thing to force them to engage in commerce."