Tim Hardaway First Person to Sign Petition to Legalize Gay Marriage in Florida

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Tim Hardaway, the man who once proudly and loudly proclaimed, "I hate gay people," is now the first Floridian to sign a new petition to put gay marriage back on the ballot in the Sunshine State.

In one of the bluntest instances of casual homophobia in sports history, the former Miami Heat legend once declared on radio in 2007: "You know, I hate gay people, so I let it be known. I don't like gay people, and I don't like to be around gay people. I am homophobic. I don't like it. It shouldn't be in the world or in the United States."

The reaction was swift. Hardaway was apologizing within hours and quickly lost his position as a team executive in the Continental Basketball Association. Ever since, he's changed his tune. He has done work on behalf of several gay charities and was one of the first to congratulate NBA player Jason Collins when he came out.

So in an apparent effort to illustrate that even the most ignorantly homophobic person can change his views on gay marriage, Equal Marriage Florida selected Hardaway to be the first person to sign a petition that would put gay marriage back on the state ballot in 2014.

"If you're married, you're married -- you should see your significant other in the hospital, make choices for your significant other if you need to make those choices," Hardaway told NBC Miami Wednesday night at the signing ceremony at Sullivan's Tavern in Miami.

Hardaway's signature would be the first of the 680,000 the group must collect to get the initiative on the ballot, but the group is hoping to rack up to 1 million.

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