Wednesday, January 14, 2015

"Come On Down, The Weather Is Great," but...


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You don’t worry about shoveling snow or falling on ice in Florida.  In many ways, life seems easier.  Barefoot, you can walk out in the a.m. to the end of your driveway to pick up the newspapers. Restaurants seem cheaper than Northeast and run “early bird specials.” (No one ever accused me of eating late!).  Storekeepers are friendlier.  There’s no individual income tax nor a state income tax.

But the politics: ‘Oy, vey!’

Florida took its sweet time to finally abandon discriminatory same-sex marriage last week. Even when declared legal, some counties did not allow any couples to get married at courthouses, particularly in the panhandle, to get around marrying gay couples.  They were upholding what ex-Governor Jeb Bush called “religious liberty.” In fact, 35 states and the District of Columbia legalized gay marriage before Florida! The sunshine state also was one of the last two U.S. states to ban gay adoption; Needless to say, it doesn’t have a good track record!

And the same state that boasted ex-beauty queen Anita Bryant, who when she wasn’t drinking Florida orange juice in 1977, tried to push “Save the Children” campaign aimed at repealing a local ordinance that prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.  A religious zealot, Bryant and her first husband earned the hatred of the gay population when they spread their anti-gay agenda of the sinfulness of homosexuality and the perceived threat of homosexuality recruitment of children and child molestation.

What Current Florida Politicians Have Said About Gay Marriage

Attorney General Bondi argued that “marriage was meant only for couples who planned to breed (prepare your hutches, you bunnies!) and provide enduring relationships.”

Republican Senator Marco Rubio hopes Bondi continues her fight against gay marriage.  “If they wanted to change that law, they would have gone to the legislature or back to the constitution and try to change it.  I don’t agree we should be trying to make those changes through the courts.”

U.S. Rep. Robert Posey, R-Rockledge says ” the U.S. Constitution does not give the federal government authority to define marriage.  It is a state issue.  When I was in the state legislature, I voted for the definition to include one man and one woman.”

Stays, Appeals, Holding up Courts

It seems as if district courts like Arkansas and Missouri have stayed their decisions while their appeals are pending at a U.S. Circuit Court. Florida has yet to hear if its legalization of same-sex marriage could be rescinded.  On December 3, the 11th Circuit Court denied Bondi’s request to extend a stay on a federal judge’s decision to strike down Florida’s 2008 ban on gay marriage.

Should the ban go back into effect, what would happen to all those gay couples who finally received benefits and the desired status that heterosexuals have enjoyed?  Will they be stripped of their dignity? Is same-sex marriage a social issue or a constitutional rights issue?  Shouldn’t gay people have equal dignity and their children as well? It’s a human rights issue as well as a real boon to a state’s economy.

The Supreme Court

The Supreme Court justices have yet to rule this year on states remaining bans against same-sex marriages, some in the deep South, and some in Midwest (although South Dakota just passed gay marriage, sort of).  Justices did not agree to hear any of the petitions filed by gay and lesbian couples from states without gay marriage.

It is possible that by the end of January, the court could decide that marriage is a fundamental right and bans on gay marriage are unconstitutional, making it the law of the land.

With so much progress and momentum on gay marriage, it’s almost shocking to hear of disapproving senators, families and workplaces. Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the majority opinion in the famous 2013 U.S. States v. Windsor case, opined that “times have blinded this country about African-Americans, times have blinded this country about women and times have blinded this country about gay people.” Someday, we will reflect at how nonsensical opposition to gay marriage was.  Hopefully, the awakening will be soon.