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Wednesday, Oct 01, 2014
Tom Jackson Columns

Can Crist's 'fairness' epiphany be limited to couples?

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Tom Jackson's “The Right Stuff” blog updates throughout the week at TBO.com.

Now that the fabulously malleable Charlie Crist has famously, publicly and, not to put too fine a point on it, sanctimoniously renounced yet another position he until recently held passionately, three questions are appropriate.

One expects the second two never will be posed by reporters covering the former governor's eyebrow-raising campaign for his old job, but hope, like love, springs eternal.

The topic is same-sex marriage, the recent rulings in Key West and Miami that the state's ban offends the Constitution, and Changeling Charlie's endorsement of those decisions.

Nevermind that, as a GOP governor in 2008, Crist was among those who championed amending the state constitution to recognize marriage as being between one man and one woman. However, like the occupant of the White House he urgently admires, Crist's every opinion comes with an expiration date.

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So, as promised, three questions for the now-Democratic candidate for his old job. The first he has answered any number of times: What changed your mind? Nonetheless, it has to be asked, not only because his answer is instructive, but also because it sets the predicate for the necessary follow-ups.

About his switch, Crist says, “Floridians want fairness — and this is an issue of fundamental fairness. We need to allow people to love who they love.”

Picky issues of grammatical accuracy notwithstanding, Crist's new (subject to change) policy is OK as far as it goes. Lots of people — possibly sufficient in number to repeal the 2008 amendment — have decided we shouldn't stop two romantically involved people from establishing a commitment recognized by our government.

Increasingly, folks who have thought only about question No. 1 agree with Ted Olson, the plaintiffs' attorney who helped convince the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn Virginia's ban on same-gender marriage: “Today's decision stands as a testament that all Americans are created equal and denying loving gay and lesbian couples the opportunity to marry is indefensible.”

Well, fine.

But, as has been noted here previously, if love is the answer — and this is among the follow-ups Crist should be asked to address — what is the limiting principle?

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Olson says all Americans are created equal. Crist says marriage is a question of fairness. Even Republicans David Jolly and Rick Scott have gotten into the act, assuming the roles of human pretzels to avoid supporting, exclusively, what Florida voters enshrined just six years ago.

Here's the problem, as Heritage fellow Ryan Anderson noted in a July 8 talk at Stanford University: Redefining what constitutes marriage reduces the entire affair to contract law, “and contracts can come in as many sizes and shapes as consent comes in.”

Once we eliminate the male-female exclusivity that has defined marriage in Western civilization — a noble enterprise rooted in the statistically supportable notion that a free society thrives best when government encourages traditional nuclear families — all bets are off.

“If you don't think marriage is about uniting male and female, husband and wife, mother and father,” Anderson says, “then you don't really think marriage exists. You think it's just contract law.

“If we go down this road, it will lead us down this line of thinking that we should just have contracts of consenting adults of whatever sizes and shapes.” Anderson is onto something here, of course: The left's animus for marriage as the cornerstone of a nation founded in individual liberty.

So, Question No. 3 for the recently converted Charlie Crist, champion of fairness, lover of love: Assuming there are Floridians who find fulfillment only in love-based partnerships of three or more, and all Floridians are created equal, and Floridians should be able to love whom they love, what is fair about excluding them from the satisfaction you are eager to extend to same-sex couples?

If the Crist who would be governor again thinks the logical extension of his “fundamental fairness” doctrine is OK, he should say so. If he doesn't, he should explain that, too.

 

tjackson@tampatrib.com

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