Jacksonville residents take sides on same-sex marriage issue

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Like many other parts of the country, Jacksonville has a verbal and committed group of people speaking up as the Supreme Court grapples with the issue of same-sex marriage.

But there are many others in the community who are quietly watching and waiting for change.

"You know, we don't wear it on our sleeves. It's not who we are. It's just part of us," gay rights supporter and Riverside business owner Bill Martin said.

Martin has been in a committed relationship with his partner for 20 years. At this point, the romance of marriage is not nearly as important to him as the other things that come with it.

"Heterosexual couples have 1,004 benefits by marriage that homosexual couples don't have, and that's an important aspect of it to me," Martin said.

What's most important to Raymond Johnson, of Biblical Concepts Ministries, is slowing down what he calls a dangerous and sinful push to redefine marriage.

"So the fact that the Supreme Court is arguing this in our country today is just, we're asking for the judgement of God, and it's really a crying shame that this is where we're at," Johnson said.

Johnson heads up a nondenominational religious group that seeks to incorporate the Bible with public policy.

"There has been a movement of the radical homosexual lobby that wants to normalize and push their agenda on everybody else," Johnson said.

Nine states recognize same-sex marriage. Florida is not one of them. About four years ago, voters approved a state ban on gay marriage, a major victory for opponents and a move many in the gay community took personally.

Though the two sides may be far apart in their philosophy, both Martin and Johnson agree on one thing -- change is coming eventually.

"Jacksonville, although it has a strong gay community, it still has a long way to go, but it is coming around pretty quickly," Martin said.

"If we're blessed enough that they do what's right for everybody and uphold traditional marriage, it's still only a matter of time," Johnson said.

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