Yesterday, Attorney General Pam Bondi came under fire for her defense of Florida‘s ban on same-sex marriage, which claimed that recognizing out-of-state legal civil same-sex marriages would “impose significant public harm” and play havoc with existing marriage laws in the Sunshine State.
Those four words, “impose significant public harm,” earned Bondi, a 48-year old Tea Party Republican who has been married three times, scorn and rebuke from several Florida LGBT organizations and countless news outlets, including The New Civil Rights Movement.
But further examination of the same court filing, which claims same-sex marriage will “impose significant public harm” shows Bondi also suggests that same-sex couples don’t create stable or enduring homes.
The Tampa Bay Times reports that “[l]ost in the uproar was another statement, buried deeper in the response, that sounded more potentially inflammatory. In a section on marriage’s historical definition, Bondi seemed to argue that unions between men and women produce more favorable environments for children.” That is, of course, a claim no reputable scientific study has found to be true.
“Florida’s marriage laws,” Bondi wrote in the court filing (PDF), “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.”
The procreation argument is not a valid legal argument to deny marriage. But, regardless, many same-sex couples do raise their own biological children — at least of one of the members of the couple. Many gay same-sex couples raise the children one of the fathers may have had in a previous marriage, for instance. Many lesbian same-sex couples raise the children one of the mothers may have had in a previous marriage, too. And same-sex parents also adopt the children sometimes abandoned by those “mothers and fathers who produced them” in non-stable and non-enduring family units. There are, of course, other methods for couples to conceive.
Bondi also argues that excluding same-sex couples from marriage might promote a legitimate governmental purpose.
The plaintiffs simply are wrong to argue that the exclusion of same-sex couples from the definition of marriage must further a legitimate state interest. A classification will be upheld where “the inclusion of one group promotes a legitimate governmental purpose, and the addition of other groups would not.”
Here’s Bondi’s argument, filed in the combined case of Brenner v. Scott and Grimsley v. Scott, that recognizing same-sex marriages performed out of state would “impose significant public harm”:
“The Court should also deny the preliminary injunction motions because there is no likelihood of success on the merits, there is no immediacy requiring a preliminary injunction and disrupting Florida’s existing marriage laws would impose significant public harm.”
Of course, it’s arguable there is not one single truth in that statement. Every same-sex marriage case since the supreme Court ruled on DOMA less than a year ago has been won by those seeking equality, and even federal judges have written that imposing stays — delays — on those rulings would cause harm. Worse, the fact that an entire class of people have been denied their rights for generations far outweighs whatever administrative changes the State of Florida might need to perform. And whatever financial costs the State incurs as a result of extending marriage — and equal rights — to same-sex couples is outweighed by the fact that same-sex couples are legal tax-paying citizens and have paid into that system AG Bondi wants to exclude them from now accessing. In short, gays lesbian, and bisexual Floridians have been supporting the marriages of heterosexual couples for centuries. It’s time they were allowed to enter into the institution.
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