John Stemberger, director of the Florida Family Policy Council who was chairman of the 2008 same-sex marriage amendment effort, said Monday that the recent court decisions that have invalidated Florida’s same-sex marriage ban are “illegitimate” and will be reversed if the U.S. Supreme Court takes up the issue.
“Five million voters have been overthrown by a handful of lawyers in black robes and I think this is not the way a democracy should work,’’ he said at a press conference in Tallahassee Monday. “The judges that have found these new rights have made them up out of thin air. They have no history. They have no tradition in our country and all of a sudden we’re redefining marriage.”
He said that the definition of marriage should be something that is decided at each state level and he hopes the U.S. Supreme Court takes up the issue. He predicted the high court will then vote 5-4 for a ruling that determines that, unlike Roe v. Wade before it, same-sex marriage is a states’s rights issue.
“Today’s not the end. Tomorrow’s not the end of this,’’ he said. “Ultimately the Supreme Court has to give clarity as to whether this is a state's rights issue or if we are going to create new right to marry under the Supreme Court's interpretation of the Equal Protection clause."
If that happens, he said the Florida ban on same-sex marriage will be reinvigorated and “then you’re going to have a confused patchwork of couples who are legitimately married, same-sex couples who are presumably unconstitutional some-how and same-sex couples who want to be married but can’t be because of the authority of the Florida marriage amendment.”
He said that of the 35 states that have allowed same-sex marriages in some way, only 11 of them have gone through “a legitimate process” that includes a popular vote or law enacted by a legislative body.
“It’s one thing to have bad public policy. It’s another thing to have an illegitimate process,’’ he said. “This adds to the illegitimacy of government. It undermines the respect people have for government.”
Stemberger's organization, along with the conservative legal group Liberty Counsel, has filed a new appeal in Manatee County, asking a judge to clarify that the ruling does not apply to every county in the state. They will have a hearing on a similar issue in Orange County on Wednesday.
He also challenged Equality Florida to face-off in a contest to determine whose supporters are more mean-spirited and ugly, based on the nasty communications they have received.
“I would challenge Equality Florida to have a hate-mail competition and put our mail up against theirs and see who really is spewing hate in this campaign,’’ he said.
He said that if he sees anyone in his movement that talks ugly “we would disassociate ourselves and admonish these people and we see none of that coming from Equality Florida.”
Stemberger said that he believes “the goal was never marriage” but instead to use this issue to “have no diversity of opinion on this matter in no area of society.”
He said that “every major world religion has a view that marriage is between a man and a woman” and agrees with his position “unless they are going to reinvest the text of their own faith.”
Harry Mihet, senior vice president of legal affairs at the conservative Liberty Counsel, said by phone that the advent of same-sex marriage in Florida is a sign of “the demise of democracy” and evidence of “widespread lawlessness” in Florida.
He said there are only two county clerks – in Washington and Miami-Dade counties – who have a legitimate right to issue marriage licenses but they are only required to issue licenses to the plaintiffs. The move by other county clerks to issue licenses to anyone who asks has no legal authority and if they proceed “their acting contrary to Florida law” and their constitutional duties.
Stemberger said his organization is trying to promote the "basic social order" by promoting marriage because the cost to the state of the breakdown of marriage is $1 billion a year. He acknowledged that while the state allows gay couples to adopt children but he believes that allowing those couples to marry "is not in the best interest of society."
"There's no question if these same-sex couples choose to be monogomous, as opposed to promiscuous, is a better thing for society but you have to weigh that against the negative effective of same sex marriage,'' he said.
The negatives? "it's the end of gender in society,'' he said, leading to "Party A and Party B" and a host of gender-neutral terms.
Childhood reading books will refer to "Heather has two mommies" which is "completely inappropriate."
And it "submits our children to this vast, untested social experiment," he said.