Bruised by an avalanche of negative press over her recent brief defending Florida's ban on gay marriage, Attorney General Pam Bondi released a new statement late Monday.
At issue is this sentence in the brief: "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."
Not reading beyond the headline, many in the social media sphere have interpreted that to mean that Bondi believes that gay marriage would impose public harm. She says that she meant it would harmful to Florida's law, which she is charged to uphold.
Nowhere in her statement does Bondi say that perhaps her brief could have been better said, or more carefully worded. She says she is defending the law and any interpretation otherwise is an attempt to inflame. Her statement:
TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—Attorney General Pam Bondi issued the following statement regarding the same-sex marriage lawsuit:
“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.”