BY FRED GRIMM
With five divorces between the two of us, Pam Bondi and I aren’t exactly paragons of marriage stability.
Nothing in Florida law, however, would keep either one of us from denigrating that hallowed institution once again. The state would not object if, say, one or the other of us wandered into the Elvis Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas.
No law or constitutional amendment denies us our sacred right to a marriage ceremony officiated by a gaudy Elvis impersonator, decked out in “memorable gold lamé” or a rhinestone-sequined jumpsuit. (I’ll let Pam decide.)
Florida goes along with most any kind of marriage as long as they entail two people, no matter how drunk, of the opposite sex. Even an Elvis-themed heterosexual marriage against the backdrop of a pink 1955 Cadillac convertible would be considered integral to “stable and enduring family units.”
That’s what marriage is all about in Florida, according to Attorney General Bondi’s office, defending the state’s prohibition against gay marriage — mommies and daddies to crank out kiddies.
Last week, Monroe Chief Circuit Judge Luis Garcia found Bondi’s argument wanting. He ruled that the ban was unconstitutional.
Bondi’s office quickly filed an appeal, triggering an automatic stay before gay folks in the Keys could apply for marriage licenses. (On Monday, Garcia denied a motion to lift the stay.) All Bondi is really accomplishing, as she fritters away our tax dollars in the appellate courts, is to postpone the inevitable.
Back in 2008, voters approved the ban after political demagogues warned that gay unions would somehow undermine traditional marriage. But with gay marriage now legal in 19 other states, there’s no longer any reason for Bondi’s lawyers to pad legal briefs with mushy speculation about the imagined horrors. We’ve now got 19 laboratories out there. If gay marriage was indeed detrimental to “traditional” man-woman marriage, Bondi ought to be able cite hard evidence.
Conservative religious groups added their own Amici Curiae briefs to the state’s defense of ban, citing Florida’s interest in the enterprise of baby-making. But Garcia noted “procreation has never been a qualification for marriage.”
Besides, the notion of the superiority of the heterosexual family seems ever more absurd with each awful revelation about the Florida Department of Children and Families’ failures to safeguard children in overwrought foster homes or troubled “traditional” family settings. It has been a long time since Ozzie and Harriet provided the marriage template in Florida.
John Stemberger, president of the Florida Family Policy Council, was riled by Garcia’s ruling. “Every domestic partnership, every single civil union, every couple that cohabitates,” he insisted, “dilute and devalue marriage.”
That was the same Stemberger who attacked Bondi back back in 2011, when she was running in the Republican primary for attorney general. He said, “Personally, she has no children and lives with her 60-year-old eye doctor boyfriend.”
Bondi’s still childless, still living with her ophthalmologist boyfriend. And the notion that their relationship “dilutes and devalues marriage” is just as mean and mindless and outmoded as her own defense of the ban on gay marriage.