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Friday, Dec 19, 2014
Joe Henderson Columns

Bondi’s latest same-sex marriage move sidesteps the issue

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Published:   |   Updated: August 11, 2014 at 10:16 AM

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Less than three months ago, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi argued that forcing our fair state to recognize same-sex marriages would, in her words, “impose significant public harm.”

Well, OK, that’s a heaping-sized helping of horse hooey, but Florida is ruled by a law voters approved in 2008 that outlaws such marriages. As the state’s top legal officer, Bondi says it’s her responsibility to defend all of our laws, even the dumb ones (I added that last part).

The problem is, public sentiment is turning against this law. A recent Gallup poll showed that, for the first time, a majority of Americans (55 percent) now favor marriage equality. That’s the trend in Florida, too.

When Bondi issued her “significant public harm” statement, she immediately got fierce push-back. It came from those who favor gay rights and those in the middle who are starting to wonder what all the fuss is about.

Maybe that explains the tepid appeal court brief Bondi filed late Thursday in response to legal challenges against Florida’s law. Perhaps realizing that, in an election year, a hard-line stance is more likely to cause “significant political harm” instead of public harm, she basically said, “bleh.”

That’s not the technical legal term, of course.

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Bondi said essentially there was no need for her to put on a big legal show because this issue is headed for the U.S. Supreme Court anyway. She is right about the latter, of course; the Supremes undoubtedly will get the last word on this.

The Supreme Court decided the legality of the Affordable Care Act, too, but that didn’t stop Bondi from filing lots of legal arguments that Obamacare (paraphrasing here) was a spawn of Satan. She jumped into the middle of a legal argument about a Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan.

She is front and center with opponents of the medical marijuana initiative in our state. She filed a friend of the court brief supporting Arizona’s immigration laws. This is not someone afraid to wade into the middle of a fight.

Of course, there is a good chance the fight to restrict same-sex marriage is already lost for those who can never support gay rights in any way. Courts all over the country are routinely ruling that discriminatory laws against gays are unconstitutional.

The problem is, a significant number of people really, really, really don’t approve of gays. That apparently would include at least some members of the New Hope Baptist Church in Tampa. WFLA-TV reported that the funeral of a gay man scheduled at the church was canceled after members found out about it and protested to the minister.

Voters who deeply believe in the biblical prohibitions against homosexuality are risky for politicians, especially ones who preach the gospel of conservatism like Bondi.

She has aligned with the “anti” forces, but they might turn against her if she doesn’t own the issue. If she does, though, it could cost her votes from those who don’t believe the state should be in the discrimination business. That’s a pretty large fence to straddle.

I have said this before and will repeat: If a church doesn’t want to allow a same-sex couple to wed in its chapel, that’s up to the church, and the government should keep out. The state can’t play that game, though. Equal rights means equal, period.

That’s what I would like to hear Pam Bondi, Rick Scott and every other politician say. Bondi seems content to wait for the Supreme Court to decide what her opinion should be.

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