“I’m embarrassed to have a member of the bar write something like this as an excuse to support the bigotry of the voters of Florida. Because in [Liberty Counsel attorney Mat Staver’s] mind, this court should allow mob rule. If the majority – the one that has the most money, the one that has the most position – don’t like a certain segment of society like our friends over here, they get to rule. And you don’t get to even evaluate whether it’s even constitutional.”
– Elena Vigil-Fariñas, attorney for plaintiffs in the Monroe County marriage equality case, in reference to a graphic description of heterosexual and homosexual sex written by Liberty Counsel attorney Mat Staver, which he included in his written objection to the court’s ruling.
Number of states in which more than two dozen court rulings have favored marriage equality over same-sex marriage bans; gay marriage is now legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia
Number of opposite-sex marriages that would be destroyed by the legalization of same-sex marriage in Florida
Estimated total spending on same-sex wedding tourism in Florida in the first three years, should marriage equality prevail in the state; $116.6 million in positive economic impact would come in the first year
Maybe the double rainbow that loomed over Orlando last week was a sign. On July 17, a Monroe County judge ruled that Florida’s gay-marriage ban is discriminatory, making it legal for gay couples to get married (but only in Monroe County, home of leathery skin, terrifyingly long bridges and the Keys). For a hot minute that afternoon, we all turned into crazy-eyed Rainbow Brite dolls, celebrating the victory. It was just six years ago, after all, that the most conservative and god-fearing interests in the state managed to get 62 percent of the population to vote to enshrine hatred into the state’s constitution via Amendment 2, which banned gay marriage completely. Now, it seems, it’s all gone to the fairies!
Circuit Judge Luis Garcia issued his opinion that plaintiffs (and hot bartenders in love) Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones should be able to get married, basically stating that the state’s marriage amendment was unconstitutional and that it violated the couple’s 14th Amendment rights. Simple. Sweet.
“This court is aware that the majority of voters oppose same-sex marriage, but it is our country’s proud history to protect the rights of the individual, the rights of the unpopular, and the rights of the powerless, even at the cost of offending the majority,” Garcia wrote in his ruling.
But what’s becoming increasingly clear through ruling after ruling on the matter of marriage equality is how desperate, strange and sad folks like Florida Family Policy Council running mouth John Stemberger, Liberty Counsel mean dad Mat Staver and even everybody’s favorite gal pal, Attorney General Pam Bondi, have become in the face of inevitability. While the gays are keeping their cool and making reasoned points about the nature of fairness in courts of law, the zealots are scratching at the wallpaper.
“This is an issue worth dying for,” Stemberger said following the ruling, according to the Miami Herald. “Every domestic partnership, every single civil union, every couple that cohabitates, these arrangements dilute and devalue marriage.”
Stemberger went on to use words like “hostile” and “illegitimate” as if he were just waving meat in the faces of decreasingly interested wolves. You know why Florida Family Policy Council is considered a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center? This is why.
In the actual hearing on the case, it was Staver who did all the talking, once again bringing in the whole anarchistic scenario of slippery slopes into three-ways or whatever. You should be so lucky, Mat! And, of course, Bondi – who immediately appealed Garcia’s ruling, thus shutting off the spigot that would have issued marriage licenses to gay couples beginning on July 22 – is still fresh from her “significant public harm” gaffe in May. She’s standing by the state’s alleged responsibility to defend the mob rule of a constitutional amendment from a different time in history. (Maybe some time around her first marriage?) Gov. Rick Scott, meanwhile, stood in the middle of the teeter-totter and made no sense. He “supports traditional marriage, consistent with the amendment approved by Florida voters in 2008, but does not believe that anyone should be discriminated against for any reason,” Scott said in a statement.
Eye-rolls everywhere. Anyway, things are now in a holding pattern. There are several other marriage equality rulings pending around the state, and Bondi appears to be banking on the Florida Supreme Court to do her bigoted bidding.
Meanwhile, all of the nice LGBT people and their friends who just want kindness and respect to prevail, well, they held rowdy, smiling gatherings at bars (we were at one at the Hammered Lamb on Thursday evening), talked logically about strategies and left all the harsh rhetoric to the wheezing fools who are wearing themselves out.
“Obviously, we’re thrilled,” civil rights attorney Mary Meeks – who is working on a similar case in Miami-Dade – told the Orlando Sentinel. And at this point, thrilled is exactly what we should be.
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