April 27, 2015

Fact-checking claims about same-sex marriage

The fight over same-sex marriage will be in the spotlight again this week when the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments Tuesday.

The court will hear arguments that pertain to two questions: whether the Constitution’s 14th Amendment, which guarantees due process and equal protection, compels states to recognize same-sex marriages and whether states must recognize such marriages performed in other states.

Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee will defend their bans before the Supreme Court. Currently 36 states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage including Florida, although a challenge is underway in the 11th Circuit Court.

The outcome of the decision, expected by June, could mean either that same-sex marriage will become legal in all states or that some states will institute new bans on same-sex marriage.

We have fact-checked claims related to previous court rulings, the cost to couples who can’t and a proposal in Texas to strip salaries from clerks who issue same-sex marriage licenses.  We’ve also looked at the views of President Barack ObamaU.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.; former Florida Gov. Jeb Bushand Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.  

Here is PolitiFact's primer to some of our fact-checks about same-sex marriage (and here are all of our fact-checks related to gays and lesbians):

April 01, 2015

After Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio praised Indiana's RFRA, a closer look at the law

Both former Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio have voiced support for Indiana’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Bush said "Florida has a law like (Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act)” -- a claim PolitiFact Florida rated Half True. Florida’s 1998 law differs in both text and context from the new law in Indiana which has been the subject of nationwide debate in recent days.

The bill has faced a backlash from gay rights groups and others who say it could be used by businesses to deny services to gays and lesbians. Today, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced that he wants a similar bill tweaked in his state before he is ready to sign it.

So what exactly is in the Indiana bill that has drawn reactions from Democratic and GOP presidential contenders?

To learn more, turn to PunditFact’s annotation of the Indiana law.

March 31, 2015

Fact-checking Jeb Bush's claim comparing the religious freedom laws in Florida and Indiana

Likely presidential candidates have reacted to Indiana’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act as Gov. Mike Pence, a Republican, has had to defend the law against those who say it discriminates against gays and lesbians.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush sided with Pence in a radio interview on Monday.

"I think Gov. Pence has done the right thing," Bush said in a radio interview with Hugh Hewitt on March 30. "Florida has a law like this. Bill Clinton signed a law like this at the federal level. This is simply allowing people of faith space to be able to express their beliefs, to be able to be people of conscience. I just think once the facts are established, people aren’t going to see this as discriminatory at all."

How similar is the Florida law to the Indiana law, or the federal law before that? When we reached out to Bush’s office, they reiterated that Bush was describing the laws as "very similar." We decided to delve into the evidence for a complete picture.

January 20, 2015

Ted Olson's claim about Supreme Court and marriage

With the U.S. Supreme Court poised to decide whether same-sex marriage must be legal in all 50 states, Fox News Sunday pitted Family Research Council president Tony Perkins against former solicitor general Ted Olson for a Jan. 18 roundtable debate.

There isn’t precedent for the Supreme Court justices to limit marriages to heterosexual couples only, said Olson, a Republican attorney who supports same-sex marriage and has argued 61 cases in front of the Supreme Court.

"The United States Supreme Court 15 times over the last 120 years has said that ‘marriage is a fundamental right,’" Olson said.

Perkins, a fervent opponent of same-sex marriage, interrupted: "Marriage, but not same-sex marriage."

Olson continued, "Never once in any of those cases did it say that it had to be between a man and a woman. Fifteen times it said it was a matter of privacy, liberty, association, dignity and respect for the individual."

We wondered about these 15 cases and if they really don’t define marriage as solely between a man and a woman.

Turn to Lauren Carroll's fact-check from PunditFact.

January 16, 2015

Bondi pleased Supreme Court will consider gay marriage

After the U.S. Supreme Court announced Friday it would take up four same-sex marriage cases by the end of the term, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi issued a statement of her own, praising the court:

"All along, I have maintained that the U.S. Supreme Court should decide the same sex marriage issue in order to provide uniformity in Florida and resolve the legal issue nationwide. I am pleased that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the same sex marriage issue and provide finality on the matter."

Bondi was largely quiet after same-sex marriages began in Florida last week. She asserted that Solicitor General Allen Winsor was looking into the next steps the state ought to take and that she was happy for the couples that did marry.

The court could provide consistency on same-sex marriage nationwide by striking down state bans as unconstitutional, or it could continue allowing states to determine their own laws and policies.

January 07, 2015

It's official: State tells gay employees their spouses are eligible for state health insurance

Gay wedding@SteveRothaus

Among the first tangible signs that Florida government has accepted that gay couples can be legally married: Same-sex spouses of state employees are now eligible for state coverage for health insurance and retirement benefits.

“Employees whose marriages will be legally recognized in Florida as of Jan. 6, 2015, have a qualifying status change event window between Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015, through Friday, March 6, 2015, to enroll in a family plan,” reads a memo to state agency and university personnel officers and benefit coordinators from Suzetta Furlong, operations chief of the Florida Department of Management Services.

Furlong wrote the memo on Tuesday, hours after a federal judge’s stay expired — along with Florida’s 2008 constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

Also Tuesday, state retirement director Dan Drake notified Florida Retirement System members they could now include their legal same-sex spouse as a beneficiary for their retirement. Story here. 

Here are the state letters to employees:

Download IR 2015-175 Legal Spouse.CORRECTED (1)

Download MA_15-001_Legal_Spouse (1)

Photo: Jeff Delmay, left, and Todd Delmay exchange vows in front of Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Sarah Zabel, just after she lifted her stay on Monday, Jan. 5, 2015. WALTER MICHOT MIAMI HERALD STAFF



Marco Rubio: FL should keep gay marriage banned, appeal to U.S. Supreme Court


Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has been evasive over whether to fight court rulings in favor of gay marriage, but U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio was unequivocal Wednesday on what should be done: appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to ban the same-sex unions.

“First of all, I think she should. Obviously, I don’t know what decision she’s made," Rubio told reporters Wednesday. "I think that issue is going to wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court either way.”

"I do not believe that there is a U.S. constitutional right to same-sex marriage. Now, as I’ve said before, states have a right to change their laws. I don’t believe it’s unconstitutional. I just don’t believe there’s a constitutional right to it."

Rubio's comments echoed those given by his friend and potential 2016 presidential-race opponent Jeb Bush, who told The Miami Herald on Sunday that he had concerns with courts overturning the 2008 Florida constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. It passed with 62 percent of the vote.

Bush the following day took a softer approach in a written statement where he said the court rulings should be "respected."

Rubio, however, was more direct in his opposition and what he thought both Bondi and Floridians should do.

"If a state wants to change its marriage laws, it should do so by petitioning their elected representatives in the legislatures, and in the case of Florida, by placing on the ballot a question on the issue," Rubio said, referring to gay marriage. "I’m against it. I don’t agree with it. But we’re in a democracy. People can debate those issues. Ultimately, they’ll be decided through that process.

"But in Florida, the law is in place as a result of voters, who voted by a supermajority to define it that way. If that’s going to be changed – and I don’t agree that it should be changed – but if it’s going to be changed, it should be changed through the political process not through the judiciary."

Lawmakers push for sexual orientation therapy ban

Against the backdrop of Florida's first legal same-sex marriages earlier this week, two lawmakers have introduced a bill to curb therapies aimed at changing the sexual orientation of children.

"This kind of therapy is more harmful to a child than doing nothing," said Rep. David Richardson, D-Miami Beach, Florida's first openly gay legislator. "It's a conversation we need to have in the state of Florida."

The bills (H.B. 83 and S.B. 204), introduced by Richardson and Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, apply specifically to state-licensed, therapists, social workers and psychologists. Professionals who try to change the sexual orientation of someone younger than 18 would face disciplinary proceedings from the state.

Church leaders would be exempted from the change. So would conversations with licensed therapists based on sexuality questions, as long as there isn't an attempt to change the sexuality of the child.

A similar bill introduced last year died in committee.

Continue reading "Lawmakers push for sexual orientation therapy ban" »

January 06, 2015

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum to North Fla. gay couples: Get married here





Mayor of Florida's capitol city.

Andrew Gillum was a rising star in the Florida Democratic Party's otherwise-dim firmament even before the courts overturned the state's gay-marriage ban.

But the historic decision gave him a chance to shine politically. And he did.

While many other Democrats were silent, Gillum criticized surrounding conservative North Florida counties for refusing to perform any marriages in court houses because some of their clerks oppose gay marriage. Gillum invited the gay couples to Tallahassee to get married in Leon County instead.

This obviously won't win Gillum any conservative votes. But he's not a Republican. And his move is already winning the hearts of liberals and gay-rights groups such as Equality Florida, which posted his statement along with a picture of the mayor and his family:

"At midnight tonight, most of the state of Florida will take a collective step towards complete equality by affording people the right to marry whomever they choose. I am disheartened, however, by the decision of several counties around Florida to discontinue the opportunity for people to have courthouse marriage ceremonies. In light of these unfortunate announcements, I would like to extend an invitation to the loving couples of Duval, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Baker, Clay, Pasco, Holmes, Washington, Jackson, Calhoun, Liberty, Franklin, and Wakulla Counties to hold their marriage ceremonies here in the Capital City. I hope that this issue reminds us that love is never wrong, and that equality must continue to be a part of the progress we work to drive in our community, our state, and in our country. As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, ‘The time is always right to do what is right.'"

The immediate politics aside, Gillum's advocacy for gay rights is also significant because of his race. African-Americans in 2008 were the most-likely racial/ethnic group to support Florida's gay-marriage ban, according to exit polls. The ban  passed with 62 percent of the vote. Non-Hispanic whites backed it 60-40 percent, Hispanics 64-36 percent and African-Americans 71-29 percent.

For newly married gay couples, a party in Key West


KEY WEST -- This island doesn’t need much encouragement to throw a party. So even though it was a Monday night after the island’s busiest week, a crowd of 500 people showed up at midnight at the historic Monroe County Courthouse to see the first legal wedding between two men in the Keys.

It was a typically diverse Key West crowd of young and old, straight and gay, wealthy and working class. Among the crowd cheering on the two grooms were real estate agents and bartenders, insurance salesmen and attorneys, retirees and ministers.

While the younger crowd kept the party going afterward at a Duval Street club, the wedding itself had special resonance for many older residents.

Julia Davis and Edie Hambright had front row seats for the ceremony. They brought their own lawn chairs and set them up in front of the courthouse steps.

The couple has been together for 21 years and were legally married in New York. They came to the ceremony to celebrate the union of Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones, and to celebrate their own marriage gaining legal recognition in Florida.

“She turns 78 in July and I turn 65 in June. We just didn’t think we’d see it in our lifetime,” said Hambright. “Now we have the same benefits — retirement, health benefits, death benefits. Only a state can give you that kind of stuff. We can’t be denied that.”

More here.