FL’s AG Bondi asks state supremes to rule
October 13th, 2014
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi (R) has been defending her state’s ban on same-sex marriage in a way that has infuriated anti-gay activists. She simply refuses to make wild claims about how evil gays are going to destroy society or how states have really really good reasons – totally not bigoted reasons – for keeping Teh Ghays away from marriage.
Instead, she argues that the state has the right to set marriage laws for themselves.
In July, Monroe County Circuit Judge Luis Garcia found that argument lacking. He further found that the wacky amicus briefs arguing that gay marriage would just ruin everything for everyone were evidence that anti-gay laws are based in animus. In July, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel found the same.
This was followed by Federal Judge Robert Lewis Hinkle who found the ban unconstitutional in Federal Court.
Here’s where things get a bit interesting.
Bondi appealed the federal decision to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. She also appealed the state decisions at the Florida Supreme Court. The plaintiffs were urging the Florida State Supreme Court to hear the case expeditiously, but Bondi requested that they hold off on ruling until the US Supreme Court took up one of the appeals that were before it, either the Fourth, the Seventh or the Tenth.
But SCOTUS chose not to hear any of those appeals. And today Bondi took a surprising step. (Miami Herald)
In a startling move Monday night, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi asked the Florida Supreme Court to decide once-and-for-all whether same-sex couples can marry in the Sunshine State.
“That is unquestionably an important issue, and the Plaintiffs, the State, and all citizens deserve a definitive answer,” Bondi’s office wrote in a 6 p.m. filing to the Florida Supreme Court. “Until recently, the issue was squarely before the United States Supreme Court, and it appeared that a definitive answer was coming. … Unfortunately, the United States Supreme Court decided not to answer the question.”
Bondi’s “once and for all” language suggests that she expects an outcome that would withhold further review. In other words, it appears that Bondi thinks that the decisions will be upheld and the ban will be found unconstitutional. And it also appears that the state court is the quickest way for this to be accomplished.
The decision requires approval by the US Circuit Court. But it now seems ever more likely that marriage equality will come for Florida sooner rather than later.
Florida marriage ban ruled unconstitutional
July 17th, 2014
In the first of a pair of marriage lawsuits, Huntsman v. Heavilin, a Florida county court has found that the ban on same-sex marriage violates the US Constitution. The ruling applies only to Monroe County. (Miami Herald)
Monroe County Circuit Judge Luis Garcia overturned Florida’s 2008 constitutional gay-marriage ban on Thursday, and ordered that two Key West bartenders be allowed to wed but not before Tuesday.
Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones, who met at a gay pride celebration and have been a couple for 11 years, sued Monroe County Clerk Amy Heavilin in April for a marriage license. Their case mirrors a similar suit in Miami-Dade County, in which six same-sex couples and LGBT advocacy group Equality Florida Institute sued County Clerk Harvey Ruvin for the right to marry.
Judge Garcia found the law in violation of both the Due Process and the Equal Protections provisions of the US Constitution. Additionally, noting that “Where a court suspects animus towards a disadvantaged group a more meaningful level of review is warranted”, Garcia illustrated the animus present in this case.
Fascinatingly, the judge turned to the amicus briefs provided by those opposing equality, specifically to Dr. Judith Reisman, to illustrate their own animus. (Ruling)
The court finds that despite the Amici Curiae assertion that there is no evidence of animus towards homosexuals by the proponents of the Florida Marriage Protection Amendment (FMPA), there is ample evidence not only historically but within the very memorandum of law filed by the Amici Curiae. For example, the affidavits of Dr. Reisman, filed by the Amici Curiae, for the proposition that, “a law encouraging homosexual behaviors appears to increase HIV risk and negative health outcomes and thus creates a danger both to the individual engaging in these behaviors as well as society as a whole.” The Amici Curiae also claims that homosexuality is not the result of biology, genetics or nature, but that in fact it is a choice that is naturally subject to change and within the control of the individual. (See page 20-21 of Amici Curiae memorandum.) The Amici Curiae’s memorandum paints a picture of homosexuals as HIV infected, alcohol and drug abusers, who are promiscuous and psychologically damaged and incapable of long term relationships or of raising children. (Pages 29-39). They contend, “the personal, social and financial costs of these homosexual-specific health problems concern not just those who engage in homosexual activity, but also the larger community of citizens who help provide services and who must bear part of the burden imposed by the health challenges. It is eminently rational for the voters of Florida to seek to minimize the deleterious effect of these conditions on public health, safety and welfare by affirming that marriage in Florida remains the union of one man and one woman.” (Page 39). The court finds that animus has been established by the plaintiffs and that the heightened rational basis test is appropriate.
Also, following an amusing trend, Garcia quoted Scalia on the matter.
Justice Scalia in his dissent in Lawrence v. Texas stated, “Preserving the traditional institution of marriage … is just a kinder way of describing the State’s moral disapproval of same-sex couples,” which is obviously not a legitimate purpose for the unequal treatment.
One of the more interesting side observations in this case is that while Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi expressed her intent to defend the law – and received considerable criticism for doing so – her defense has been so minimal as to infuriate the supporters of inequality.
After the hearing, [Liberty Counsel's Matt] Staver seemed outraged that Tanenbaum spoke for about five minutes at each of the South Florida hearings, and never actually argued in favor of the gay marriage ban.
Staver said [Florida Assistant Attorney General Adam] Tanenbaum’s boss, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, “is giving only window dressing to the Florida Marriage Amendment.”
It appears that the State’s sole argument was that states have the right to set marriage law for themselves.
Judge Garcia was appointed in 2000 by former Governor Jeb Bush.
Hearing on Florida marriage lawsuit today
July 2nd, 2014
Eleventh Judicial Court Judge Sarah Zabel will preside over the case of Pareto v. Ruvin in a hearing scheduled for 4 Wednesday afternoon.
The suit looks to overturn Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage, which was added to the state constitution in 2008. According to Equality Florida, the six couples’ motion asserts that Florida’s marriage ban cannot stand in light of last year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the federal “Defense of Marriage Act” violates the federal constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process.
Florida Equality is livetweeting
Is Arizona a Turning Point?
February 27th, 2014
It would appear that the outcry over Arizona’s license-to-discriminate bill that was finally vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer last night may have reached something of a high water mark. Major companies, business group, professional organizations, and major league sports all came out with strong statements denouncing the bill in the moments leading up to Brewer’s veto. Typical was this one from Yelp’s CEO Jeremy Stoppelman:
SB 1062 would serve to create an environment where consumers would not know how they would be treated – or whether they would even be served – when they patronize a business. This bill goes against the rule that every great business subscribes to, which is that the customer is always right. It will not only be bad for customers, but also bad for local business in the state. I also believe that it would be in consumers’ interests to be made aware of businesses within the state that did engage in discriminatory behavior. Since early 2010, Yelp has hired over 650 employees in Arizona. Over the next few years, we hope to hire hundreds more. It would be unconscionable for the state to encourage discrimination against any of them.
Arizona joins three other states in putting an end to their license-to-discriminate bills in just the past twenty-four hours:
- Sponsors of Ohio’s license-to-discriminate bill withdrew their support yesterday. Moments later, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee announced that the bill was dead.
- The Mississippi House of Representatives Civil Subcommittee late yesterday voted to strike almost all of the provisions of their license-to-discriminate bill, leaving only a provision adding “In God We Trust” to the state seal. This move came after the state Senate gave its unanimous approval in January.
- Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced yesterday that he will veto a proposed license-to-discriminate bill if it reaches his desk. Earlier that day, he had refused to address the question during an interview on MSNBC.
Over the past several weeks, license-to-discriminate bills have been defeated or withdrawn in Colorado, Kansas, Maine, Tennessee, and Utah. But we’re not out of the woods yet. Similar bills are still working their way through Idaho, Missouri, South Dakota, and Georgia, where Atlanta-based Delta Airlines has announced its opposition. The Idaho bill was returned to a House committee last week, with the sponsor saying he wants to “find the right language.” In addition, there’s a push to put a similar measure on the ballot in Oregon in November.
States Defy Pentagon Order Requiring Equal Treatment for Guard Members
November 4th, 2013
Several GOP-led states have vowed to resist Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s order requiring National Guard to issue ID cards to spouses of Guard members who are in same-sex marriages. Those ID cards are critical for accessing spousal benefits. According to Reuters:
Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, the Republican head of the National Governors Association, called on President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to “stop using the National Guard as a pawn in a larger social agenda,” her spokesman, Alex Weintz, said in a statement on Friday.
“The president has made it clear he supports gay marriage. He has the legal authority to order federal agencies to recognize gay marriages. He does not have the legal authority to force state agencies to do so, or to unilaterally rewrite state laws or state constitutions,” Weintz said.
Josh Havens, a spokesman for Texas Governor Rick Perry, said, “Texas Military Forces is a state agency, and as such is obligated to adhere to the Texas Constitution and the laws of this state which clearly define marriage as between one man and one woman.”
Nine states were initially identified as refusing to issue identity cards to same-sex spouses: Indiana, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina and West Virginia. Reuters reports, “Indiana notified the Pentagon on Friday it had begun issuing the cards after a month-long review, a move defense officials said they welcomed.”
Louisiana has also confirmed that they will also defy Sec. Hagel’s order, while Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said she is exploring her legal options. Georgia’s National Guard has said it will ignore Hagel’s order.
Defense Secretary Orders State National Guards To Treat Gay Couples Equally
November 1st, 2013
Since the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act last June, the Defense Department has been rushing to implement policies designed to treat legally wedded same-sex couples equally with married couples generally. But several states have refused to issue Defense Department ID cards to same-sex spouses of National Guard members. Those states include Indiana, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, in a speech to the Anti-Defamation League, has announced that he is putting a stop to such discriminatory practices:
“Today, I directed the Chief of the National Guard Bureau, Gen. Frank Grass, to take immediate action to remedy this situation. At my direction, he will meet with the Adjutants General from the states where these ID cards are being denied. The Adjutants General will be expected to comply with both lawful direction and DoD policy, in line with the practices of 45 other states and jurisdictions.”
A senior defense official told the Washington Blade that the Pentagon has some critical leverage to deploy against recalcitrant states:
“These are federal ID cards paid for with federal funding to provide federally mandated benefits,” the official said. “I’m not going to speculate on our legal options.”
The opposition goes silent
June 20th, 2013
However, I think that a shift has occurred that is not well measured by polls. I believe that the nation has changed its views on who bears the burden of proof. This is, in many ways, a more important shift than merely those who favor or oppose same-sex marriage; it’s a shift in how the debate is conducted.
Until recently, there has been an understanding that many Americans opposed same-sex marriage, and that their objections would be voiced with conviction. Whether one agreed or disagreed, it was not considered to be outside of reasonable debate that a politician would hold their head high and declare that they “support traditional marriage” with more than a hint of “and you should too”.
And those who championed equality didn’t get off so lightly. We were expected to defend our position, to explain just why it is that our demands were justified or our ‘change in the rules’ is needed. We had the burden of proof. We started from a defensive position.
But now it is those who oppose equality that must explain themselves. Where once “I support the traditional definition of marriage” was sufficient, now even those who also fear including same-sex couples are not content with such a limited explanation. Now the trite phrase is issued – if at all – with more of an air of defensiveness than with a presumption that surely all reasonable people agree.
Other issues which divide the nation are strongly debated. And the public doesn’t think any less about those who strongly support or oppose positions on immigration, gun legislation, tax policy, or even Obamacare. You may disagree, but while your opponent is “wrong”, they are not “vile”.
But it seems to me that we have entered a phase in which one can be “not ready” or “not convinced” or “not yet evolved” on the issue of marriage equality. That’s simply opinion. But to be actively opposed suggests a character flaw, something with a whiff of nastiness and maybe even vile. The public – right and left – seem to have decided that you can support gay marriage or you can not support gay marriage, but you can’t oppose gay marriage any longer.
So more and more, those who can safely be assumed to favor heterosexual superiority simply choose to say nothing. Instead of defending their God-given moral view, they announce their support for states’ rights, defer to the wisdom of the courts, or just change the subject.
Politician after politician, those most skilled at detecting the currents of the populace, have suddenly found that they just aren’t all that worked up about the issue. Even George W. Bush, the man most tied to the campaign against equality, decided that he just doesn’t have an opinion anymore.
And today we have another good example.
The Palm Beach Post has an article about activists in Florida beginning a campaign to change minds in that state towards an eventual referendum to reverse their constitutional ban on marriage equality. It’s a nice article, but the most interesting paragraph is this:
Republican Gov. Rick Scott is staying out of the argument, however. Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz noted that voters put the ban in the constitution before he was governor and that he is focused on other issues.
Translated out of politician speak, Scott said, “My view on marriage is… ummm… look a squirrel.”
Hillsborough County (Tampa) Repeals Gay Pride Ban
June 5th, 2013
In a unanimous 7-0 vote, County Commissioners of Hillsborough County, Florida, repealed an eight-year-old ban on recognizing gay pride events:
Earlier Wednesday, the speakers included Terry Kemple, head of the Hillsborough-based Community Issues Council. Prior to the vote, he spent time rallying opposition to what he called Commissioner Kevin Beckner’s “crusade to push for county government recognition of homosexual behavior.
Before Wednesday’s vote, no other group of residents had its activities similarly deemed unrecognizable by county government.
Tampa’s pride celebration appears to be defunct, near as I can tell. But neighboring St. Petersburg will hold theirs at the end of June. BTB Daily Agenda readers may recall our post about a month-long campaign of “morals raids” that were staged in Tampa and surrounding Hillsborough County in 1961. Those raids resulted in hundreds of arrests and the destruction of a number of careers.
Marriage in the non-battle states
October 17th, 2012
Back in September, the Washington Post polled swing states Ohio, Florida, and Virginia about the upcoming presidential election. A number of other issues were polled, including this question:
31. (AMONG REGISTERED VOTERS) Do you think it should be LEGAL or ILLEGAL for gay and lesbian couples to get married?
Legal (strongly) 35%
Legal (somewhat) 19%
Illegal (somewhat) 7%
Illegal (strongly) 26%
No Opinion 13%
Legal (strongly) 36%
Legal (somewhat) 17%
Illegal (somewhat) 7%
Illegal (strongly) 30%
No Opinion 10%
Legal (strongly) 33%
Legal (somewhat) 16%
Illegal (somewhat) 8%
Illegal (strongly) 32%
No Opinion 12%
Because these (and other) states already have anti-gay marriage bans in their constitution, they can shift away from the center of our attention. But with numbers like these, it will not be long before we will again be looking at Florida and Ohio and even Virginia. But (assuming the Supreme Court doesn’t beat us to it) the next time will be our own efforts to have those constitutional blights removed.
[NOTE: revised to correct for formatting restrictions]
Florida quietly begins protecting gay couples
July 9th, 2012
Florida is not known for its support and recognition of same-sex couples. On June 7, 1977, Anita Bryant led a campaign to repeal an anti-discrimination ordinance in Dade County, beginning a culture war that still is raging today. In 2008, it joined the wave of anti-gay ballot measures prohibiting both marriage and civil unions by a 62% vote.
But, without a lot of media or fanfare, cities and counties within the state have been rapidly stepping up to offer such protections as can be granted at a local level. And while some of the progress has been over the past couple of years, there are six cities and two counties that begin offering domestic partner registration during the first half of this year alone.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of this change is that it is entirely unexciting altogether. In today’s rapidly accepting world, where the question is whether Great Britain or Australia* will be the next nation to enact marriage equality (or if US courts will beat them to it), it hardly seems worth noticing that Gulfport or Volusia County now offer registries. But to the citizens of those cities and counties it is very very important.
And as a cultural marker, it is astounding. Today, Anita Bryant is a symbol of discrimination and bigotry, and 44% of Florida residents live in a city or county that recognizes the relationships of their gay citizens.
* – Yes Australia is a long shot and the Brits are the odds on favorites, but there is a lot of buzz going on down under and my instinct has me hedging my bet.
Gingrich Defeats Romney!
February 1st, 2012
That’s Gingrich’s takeaway anyway, vowing to keep on campaigning in the 46 remaining states (even though he failed to make Virginia’s ballot). And he did trounce Romney among those who identified as Tea Party supporters, Evangelicals, and the “very conservative.” Gingrich’s geographical strength also was revealing. Romney carried central and southern Florida, home to a lot of people who moved there from the north, while Gingrich carried northern Florida and the panhandle, which is more representative of the type of voters found in the rest of the South.
But after trouncing Romney in South Carolina, Gingrich couldn’t hold up against Romney’s improved debate performance and overwhelming financial advantages.Romney won with 46%, taking all 50 delegates up for grabs, while Gingrich came in a very second with 32%. The real story in the next few weeks will be how that affects Gingrish’s ability to raise money between now and Super Tuesday. As for the rest of the lineup, Santorum trailed the Box of Rocks with 13% of the vote, and Paul pulled up the rear with 7%. It should be noted however that Paul wasn’t really contesting Florida. While the other three are campaigning for votes and momentum, Paul is in it for the delegates. With Florida’s winner-take-all contest and the impossibility that Paul could come in first, the ability to rack up any delegates in this contest was nill. So he wisely decided not to spend much time and money campaigning there. And if there’s one thing we know about Paul, it’s that he may not be rich, but he certainly knows how to deal with money.
Students of Florida’s Barfing Teacher Come Forward
August 31st, 2011
Equality Florida has published comments from students of Jerry Buell, a Lake County teacher and adviser for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at Mount Dora High School, who was suspended two weeks ago over anti-gay remarks posted on his Facebook page. Buell returned to the classroom last week, but the controversy hasn’t died down.
A growing number of students have come forward to describe Mr. Buell’s homophobic behavior in the classroom. Brian Blaise, an honors student who graduated in 2003, described the day Mr. Buell offered his disturbing take on the issue of gays serving in the military:
“I looked up when he said he supported gays in the military, stunned by the answer. He immediately followed that comment with the statement that we should then put them on the front lines, and pull back,” Blaise said.
Another of his students recounted Mr. Buell invoking the quote “A pig in a tuxedo is still a pig” to declare his disdain for recognizing gay relationships.
Equality Florida is asking supporters to email the Lake County School Board to demand they expand the district’s anti-bullying and non-discrimination policies to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
Two weeks ago, Buell was suspended for a week after reportedly posting on Facebook, “’I’m watching the news, eating dinner, when the story about New York okaying same sex unions came on and I almost threw up.” Since then, it was revealed that on Buell’s web page hosted on the high school’s web site, he wrote, “I try to teach and lead my students as if Lake Co. Schools had hired Jesus Christ himself.” And on his syllabus, he wrote:
I am a man of God and I try to be like Jesus every day. I teach God’s truth, I make very few compromises. If you believe you may have a problem with that, get your schedule changed, ’cause I ain’t changing!
Buell’s statement on his school-hosted web page was removed and he was ordered to remove the references comparing himself to Jesus from his syllabus.
Barfing Florida Teacher Is Just Like Jesus
August 26th, 2011
Jerry Buell, the Florida history and American government teacher who was suspended two weeks ago for anti-gay comments posted on his Facebook page, has been reinstated at Mount Dora High School. Buell’s lawyer said that the school district suspended him over concerns that his actions violated the separation of church and state at the taxpayer-supported public high school. Buell was suspended after writing on his Facebook page, “I’m watching the news, eating dinner, when the story about New York okaying same sex unions came on and I almost threw up.”
Jerry Buell returned to the classroom yesterday. School officials refused to comment on whether Buell’s actions violated the separation of church and state, saying only that it had placed a “written directive” in his personnel file. The district removed Buell’s school-hosted web page on which he had written “I try to teach and lead my students as if Lake Co. Schools had hired Jesus Christ himself.” The district also directed him to change his syllabus, which included this statement:
I am a man of God and I try to be like Jesus every day. I teach God’s truth, I make very few compromises. If you believe you may have a problem with that, get your schedule changed, ’cause I ain’t changing!
Last night, Buell spoke at a rally staged by the Liberty Counsel, where he remained defiant:
Fighting back tears, he said: “I’m a social studies teacher, and I knew I what the heck I was doing. “There’s a thing in this country called the First Amendment,” he told the crowd of a few hundred. “I firmly believe in the right to express my opinions passionately.”
Anti-Gay Christian Athlete Teacher Of The Year
August 17th, 2011
Jerry Buell, a longtime Lake County, Florida American History and Government teacher, has been suspended from classroom teaching after posting on his Facebook account:
I’m watching the news, eating dinner, when the story about New York okaying same sex unions came on and I almost threw up.
Buell, who was voted Jerry Buell, voted Teacher of the Year last year at Mount Dora High School and serves as advisor to that school’s Fellowhip of Christian Athletes (PDF), also called same-sex marriages a “cesspool” and a sin. But don’t hold that against him because, as I’m sure you’ve guessed by now, he loves gay people.
It wasn’t out of hatred,” he said in an interview with the Orlando Sentinel. “It was about the way I interpret things.”
…I’ve had kids that I’ve known that have been homosexuals,” he said. “They know that I don’t hate them. I love them.”
Okay then. Say you’re a gay kid, your “sin” makes your teacher puke and he’s tight with the jocks and some sort of God. How confident would you be walking into his classroom?
Update: Just to get a flavor of Buell’s influence among the high school jocks, this cached web page says he had to move his morning meetings of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes from his classroom because it couldn’t accommodate everyone. “We have had to move to the cafeteria because our numbers are growing like crazy!” Feel any better?
Democratic Operative Deploys Gay-Baiting Campaign
March 14th, 2011
Unconscionable. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know what “unmarried” is code for. From Think Progress:
Less Government Now appears to be tied to Scott Maddox, a Democratic operative who unsuccessfully ran for Agricultural Commissioner last year, and has been used to bolster tea party candidates in an attempt to split the GOP vote. Tampa has non-partisan mayoral elections, but Ferlita, a current county commissioner, is a Republican.