By Nadine Smith, CEO of Equality Florida
My wife and I married in Vermont in 2009, and we committed, in front of friends and family, to love, cherish and protect each other for the rest of our lives. Our son Logan, now three years old, only added to our joy as a family. However, we live and work in Florida, a state that refuses to recognize us as a family.
To add insult to the ongoing injury of denying our marriage, Attorney General Pam Bondi has taken the position that recognizing marriages of couples like us would “impose significant harm.” Those are the words she used in a brief calling for the dismissal of a lawsuit that would recognize gay couples married in other states. Worse, AG Bondi invokes the outrageous and thoroughly debunked claim that impugns gay couples who are raising children.
“Florida’s marriage laws 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.”
Bondi is now trying to spin the content of the brief and distance herself from her own words, claiming she is a neutral defender of the marriage ban amendment approved by voters in 2008.
Under a hail of criticism, Bondi released a statement that attempts to walk back inflammatory portions of her brief, by pretending they don’t exist. She tries to explain away the “public harm” comments as a misunderstood state’s rights argument. She doesn’t address her parenting salvo or her outrageous claim that Florida should continue to gain financially by denying gay married couples access to benefits that we pay for just like everyone else.
But Bondi can’t get around the fact that she is authorizing the state of Florida to make those pernicious arguments, which are based on invidious stereotypes about same-sex couples and our families. By way of contrast, even when it was defending DOMA, the US Department of Justice refused to rely on any asserted justifications for DOMA based on child welfare because it acknowledged the scientific consensus that same-sex parents are just as fit and capable as different-sex parents.
She also can’t get around the fact that she swore an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States as well as Florida’s. She can’t ignore the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality. She can’t ignore the 19 consecutive victories since the high court ruled handed down by judges appointed by Republicans and Democrats alike. Attorneys General and governors across the country, aware of their duty to protect the basic rights of their residents, have declined to defend anti-gay marriage bans precisely because it is clear to them that these laws are both morally and constitutionally indefensible.
Florida has changed dramatically since 2008, when voters approved an anti-gay marriage amendment. Our state now leads the South, with 57% in favor of marriage equality.
The tide has turned, and the day is coming when anti-gay marriage laws will meet the same fate as laws banning interracial marriage that limited my parent’s options.
As Judge Robert J. Shelby said in his ruling against Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage, “While the State cites an interest in protecting traditional marriage, it protects that interest by denying one of the most traditional aspects of marriage to thousands of its citizens: the right to form a family that is strengthened by a partnership based on love, intimacy, and shared responsibilities.”
My wife and I married because we love each other. We wanted to demonstrate our commitment and ensure we could take care of each other in every way possible. Our son deserves to have his parents’ marriage respected and our family protected under Florida law.