In the battle — or should it be “war”? — over same-sex marriage, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has provoked demonstrative opposition, particularly in Florida’s gay citizenry.
At just about every turn in this saga, it seems, Bondi is filing a court brief defending and supporting Florida’s one-man-one-woman marriage law. Or, to put it the other way, her detractors see her filing briefs opposing same-sex marriage.
And those detractors especially home in on Bondi’s court-brief rhetoric, in which she has written such passages as:
“The promotion of family continuity and stability is a legitimate state interest. Florida’s marriage laws, then, have a close, direct and rational relationship to society’s legitimate interest in increasing the likelihood that children will be born to and raised by the mothers and fathers who produced them in stable and enduring family units.”
That drives the gay community nuts.
But we’re going to sympathize with Bondi. Rhetoric aside, she’s doing her job: defending Florida’s constitution and statutes, regardless of their specific merit.
So while her detractors will accuse Bondi of using specious arguments in her petition this week to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as just another in Bondi’s attempts to stop same-sex marriage in Florida, if you actually read her petition, it makes sense.
If you followed this week’s news, Bondi petitioned Justice Thomas to extend a federal-court injunction against issuing same-sex marriage licenses that is set to expire at the end of the day Jan. 5, 2015. Bondi is seeking the extension until the U.S. Supreme Court issues a defining decision on same-sex marriage.
The basis of Bondi’s petition is simple, yet complicated.
The simple part is this: Bondi argues that if the injunction, or stay, is lifted, confusion and chaos would follow in Florida’s 67 counties.
Writes Bondi: “… Denying a longer stay has created statewide confusion, with news reports now suggesting that the end of the stay will lead to statewide issuance of same-sex marriage licenses, even though only one of Florida’s 67 clerks of court is a party below.
“Some clerks who are not parties to this litigation have announced, absent a stay, they will begin issuing licenses on Jan. 6.”
But running in the face of that is the advice members of the Florida Association of Clerks and Comptrollers received this week from their attorney. This is the group composed of Florida’s court clerks. According to Manatee County Clerk Chips Shore, the group’s attorney told them if the injunction against same-sex marriage expires Jan. 5, Florida’s clerks could issue same-sex marriage licenses — but at the risk of being judged a felon.
According to the clerks’ attorney, Shore said, even if the injunction is lifted, Florida law still states that marriage is between a man and a woman. If a clerk issued a marriage license to a same-sex couple, the clerk would no longer fall under the protection of state law.
That means if it turned out later that Florida’s one-man, one-woman marriage law prevailed, and a clerk issued a same-sex marriage license illegally, he no longer would have the protection of the law and could be committing a felony crime.
As Shore said, there’s not a clerk in Florida who wants to risk that.
To complicate matters, if the stay is lifted, allowing same-sex marriage in Washington County, portions of Florida government, Bondi argues, “will have to reconfigure the state’s public employee health insurance, retirement and pension systems and recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states in myriad public employment circumstances, and the Health Secretary will have to reconfigure various aspects of the state’s vital records system … [T]he order would impose a considerable administrative burden.”
More confusion: Bondi is asking Thomas to extend the Jan. 5 injunction until after the state completes its appeal of a federal court that says the state cannot enforce its one-man, one-woman marriage law.
She is hoping that Thomas will go one step further — that he will extend the stay until after the full Supreme Court takes up the entire issue of the legality of same-sex marriages.
Heretofore, the Supreme Court has rejected hearing the issue, accepting all of the federal court rulings that have said banning same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.
But in her brief, Bondi points out that since the Supreme Court issued its last rejection to hear a same-sex marriage case, five federal courts have accepted bans on same-sex marriage as constitutional.
This now means the federal district courts are split, which likely means the Supreme Court will see a compelling need for a definitive ruling.
So the wait begins.
And while we wait, you can pretty much predict the outcome. It’s coming. It’s here. By January 2017, if not recognized nationally, you can predict that Vanessa Brito’s proposed constitutional amendment (see box) will win Florida voters’ approval.
As it should. How you view marriage is a personal choice, not one for legislators to decide, discriminate or judge.
+ Waterboarding or drone?
From Andrew C. McCarthy in National Review Online, Dec. 10:
“If you were to take everyone in America who is serving a minor jail sentence of, say, 6 to 18 months, and you were to ask them whether they’d rather serve the rest of their time or be waterboarded in the manner practiced by the CIA post 9/11 (i.e., not in the manner practiced by the Japanese in World War II), how many would choose waterboarding? I am guessing, conservatively, that over 95 percent would choose waterboarding.
“Now, if you take the same group of inmates and ask them whether they’d prefer to serve the remainder of their time or be subjected to Obama’s drone program (where we kill rather than capture terrorists, therefore get no intelligence from the people in the best position to provide actionable intelligence, and kill bystanders — including some children — in addition to the target), how many would choose the drone program? I am guessing that it would be . . . zero.
“I believe President Obama is too smart not to grasp this obvious point.
“So ignore the blather about how enhanced interrogation is ‘not who we are.’ The so-called Torture Report is a partisan gift to Obama’s Bush-deranged base …
“This report is not just wildly inaccurate (as three former CIA directors attest in a Wall Street Journal op-ed). It further endangers our country, for no good purpose.”
DEFINING MARRIAGE IN FLORIDA
State Constitutional Amendment: “Inasmuch as marriage is the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife, no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized.
YES: 4,890,883 / 61.9%
NO: 3,008,026 / 38.1%
PROPOSED FOR 2016
A Miami-based organization known as Equal Marriage Florida filed a petition in 2013 to get a constitutional amendment on the 2014 ballot defining marriage as the union of persons.
Unable to secure enough petition signatures, its backer is now targeting the 2016 general election.
Vanessa Brito, a Miami political consultant and lesbian activist, is the chairwoman of the organization behind the amendment.
To reach the ballot, the proposed amendment needs 683,49 valid petition signatures. As of Dec. 16, it had none, according to the Florida Department of State Division of Elections.
Here is the wording of the proposed amendment:
Article I, Section 27. Marriage defined. — (a) Only a legal union of TWO PERSONS shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state.
(b) A religious organization, religious association or religious society shall not be required to solemnize or officiate any particular marriage or religious rite of marriage in violation of its constitutional right to free exercise of religion.