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Religious Tolerance logo

Florida: Recognition of same-sex marriages (SSMs)

Part 7: 2014-JUL: Hearings in state courts
challenging the Florida same-sex marriage ban

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This topic is a continuation from the previous essay

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wedding ringsResponding to anti-equality statements by Dr. Eladio Jose Armesto, Chair of the Florida Democracy League:

  • Christopher L. Smith (D), Democratic Leader of the Florida Senate, said:

    "I am deeply disturbed by the comments made in an apparent attempted intimidation of the judiciary. They have no place in our community or our judicial system. This is unacceptable on any day, but the fact that such hateful words and misguided analogy were spoken on the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act is the most troubling. I encourage all Floridians to embrace equality for all Americans, especially our LGBT brothers and sisters who are waging a battle against those who seek to relegate them to second-class status. I am confident that Judge Zabel will rule according to the letter of the law." 3

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  • Portrate of Alcee Hastings Member of Congress for Florida, Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (D), Senior Member of the House Rules Committee, Ranking Democratic Member of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, and Co-Chairperson of the Florida Delegation said:

    “Dr. Armesto’s comments are inexcusable and completely outrageous. Furthermore, his words are particularly offensive given that he made them on the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act

    "We must not let the pages of history turn backwards on equality for all Americans. Following the historic Supreme Court rulings in the cases of United States v. Windsor and Hollingsworth v. Perry last year, more states than ever before, as well as the District of Columbia, now recognize the equal rights of committed gay and lesbian couples. It is high time that we afford all individuals the same rights, benefits and protections, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

    While we continue to face ongoing challenges to equal rights for all Americans, let us be emboldened in our efforts, knowing that discrimination, bigotry, and hate have no place in our country’s laws." 3

    Hastings seems to imply that people who are opposed to marriage equality in Florida base their beliefs on bigotry and hate. In reality, many base their beliefs on what they sincerely regard as the highest of motives -- their interpretation of statements in the Bible that they believe refer to marriage and to persons with a homosexual or bisexual orientation.

  • Referring to the Windsor v. United States ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013-JUN which recognizes that marriage laws are the responsibility of the individual states, Florida Deputy Solicitor General Adam Tanenbaum said:

    "It remains binding precedent." 3

    Referring to the 2008 amendment to the Florida Constitution to ban marriages by same-sex couples, he also said:

    "Voters in 2008 made a policy decision which they had a right to do. ... It's not for this court to second guess or make a determination as whether that was a good policy or bad policy." 5

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  • Portrait of AG Pam Bondi A month before the hearing, Attorney General Pam Bondi issued a news release explaining her opposition to marriage equality. She wrote:

    "In 2008, Florida voters amended their state constitution to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. In response to a recent challenge to this provision, and in keeping with my sworn duty to uphold the laws of the land, my office recently filed a legal brief defending the voters' decision.

    The fundamental argument of our brief is that the voters had the right to adopt this definition of marriage, just as they have the right in the future to change their minds and afford legal recognition to same sex marriage, should they so choose.

    Defending the wishes of the voters who enacted Florida's marriage amendment necessarily requires me to make good faith legal arguments. In presenting those arguments, my office understands and respects that there are many who profoundly disagree with the voters' decision. But anything less than the best defense of our voters' policy preferences would disenfranchise the electorate, undermine the judicial process, and cast aside the professional responsibility that guides me every day as Attorney General.

    The subject of same sex marriage is understandably a matter of intense personal concern and sensitivity for Floridians on all sides of the debate. While defending this constitutional amendment, we have remained respectful and showed consideration for those with differing viewpoints—acknowledging in the introduction that this issue is one with ‘good people on all sides.’

    Therefore, I take exception to those who have sought to manipulate our brief, trying to make it something it is not. The brief does not argue for or against same sex marriage as a matter of policy, wisdom, or fairness. Those decisions are for the voters of each state, not for lawyers or courts. It is my duty to protect Florida from the 'harm' of a federal injunction overriding the will of Florida voters.

    Some states recognize same-sex marriage, and some states do not. As the brief explains on pages two and three:

    This case is not about which policy choice is better or worse. And this case is not about whether the debate should continue (which it surely will). This case is about whether states can make their own determinations.

    ‘If the ongoing debate leads Florida’s citizens to change their policy—as several States recently have -- they may do so. In the meantime, this Court should 'exercise great caution when asked to take sides in an ongoing public policy debate,' Lofton v. Sec’y, Fla. Dep’t of Children & Family Servs., 358 F.3d 804, 827 (11th Cir. 2004), and leave Florida’s important policy determinations to Florida’s citizens.’

    We are defending this amendment based solely upon judicial precedent and not the personal views of anyone in our office. Anything else would be bad lawyering -- just as in all cases, the personal opinions of the advocates and the judges involved are utterly irrelevant.

    Our brief makes the case in defense of Florida's marriage amendment with great respect for the plaintiffs and those whom they represent. Any suggestions to the contrary are not only wrong, but hurtful, designed to inflame, and insulting to everyone involved. When I defend the voters' decisions with professionalism and civility, I'm simply doing my job because my job is not to write the law, but to defend it." 6

  • Charlie Crist (D), a former Florida governor, was originally opposed to same-sex marriage but is now a supporter. He filed a brief during late 2014-JUN on behalf of the plaintiffs. He said that "... our society has evolved and moved past the prejudices rooted in our past." 5

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This topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above menu. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Why we're fighting for marriage," You Tube video, Equality Florida, at:
  2. "Florida Couples and Equality Florida Institute Urge Court to Strike Down State’s Ban on Marriage Equality," Press Release, National Center for Lesbian Rights, 2014-JUL-02, at:
  3. Curt Anderson, "Sides square off on Fla. gay marriage ban," Miami Herald, 2014-JUL-02, at:
  4. "Chairman of FL Democracy League Compares Gays' Right to Marry to the KKK," You Tube, 2014-JUL-02, at:
  5. Zachary Fagenson, "Florida court hears arguments against same-sex marriage ban." Reuters, 2014-JUL-02, at:
  6. Pam Bondi, "Attorney General Bondi’s Statement on Same-Sex Marriage Lawsuit," My Florida Legal, 2014-JUN-02, at:

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Site navigation: Home > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > Menu > Florida > here

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Copyright © 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2014-JUL-06
Latest update: 2014-DEC-04
Author: B.A. Robinson

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