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.

Raucous midnight marriages make way for quieter Florida same-sex weddings Tuesday

@PatriciaMazzei @AmySherman1 @MarthaBrannigan @kmcgrory

The festive courthouse weddings for same-sex couples began in earnest Tuesday when their marriages became legal across Florida, drawing crowds shortly after midnight and sustained interest throughout the day from gays and lesbians eager to be among the first in the state to wed.

Miami-Dade County got an early start to same-sex marriages Monday afternoon, but other South Florida counties with large gay populations celebrated couples’ unions Tuesday, with all the pomp that could be mustered in cramped bureaucratic spaces. Clerks festooned their bare offices with dainty arches and accepted donated cakes and coffee to welcome jittery brides and grooms.

For some, the occasion was a planned affair involving friends, family and natty wedding attire. Others went to apply for a marriage license dressed in shorts and jeans, now that they could.

“We had been together so long, we hadn’t put a lot of importance in it,” Cory Morton of Oakland Park said of getting married. “It seemed so far-fetched.” 

More here.

Gay weddings begin as Scott's inauguration gets underway


Just a few blocks away from the Florida Capitol -- where hundreds were preparing to celebrate Gov. Rick Scott's second inauguration -- a celebration of a different type was taking place at the Leon County Clerk's office.

Excited same-sex couples began arriving at 8 a.m. to apply for marriage licenses. 

Marcy and Rebecca MacDonell came with their parents and their pastor, the Rev. Elder M. Diane Fisher of Gentle Shepherd Metropolitan Community Church in Tallahassee, so that they could have their marriage ceremony that same morning.

They had wanted to get married on the east steps of the Old Capitol, Rebecca said. But since the iconic steps were being readied for Scott's inauguration, Marcy and Rebecca were married on the west steps.

Because they had already taken a four-hour premarital course, there was no waiting period. They returned their signed license to the clerk just after 9 a.m., making them the first same-sex couple to be married in Leon County. 

"It's surreal," said Rebecca, 45, who carried a small bouquet of pink and ivory roses.

But Marcy, 53, said she had long expected their wedding day would come. "The Bible says 'You have not because you ask not,'" she said. "Well, I was asking."

Fisher said she was honored to perform the couple's ceremony.

"We've got a number of parishioners who have already spoken to me about setting up a time to get married," she said. "People have been waiting so long."

Inside the clerk's office, James VanRiper and Myles Robertson signed their application for a marriage license. They were surrounded by VanRiper's bosses -- which, because VanRiper is the information technology manager for the City of Tallahassee, included Mayor Andrew Gillum and several members of the City Commission.

Several Leon County Commissioners and state Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee, came. too.

The grooms-to-be each wore sharp black suits and pink rose boutonnieres.

"We call Tallahassee home," VanRiper said. "We're glad we didn't have to run off and do this somewhere else."

When they finished the paperwork, the assemblage began singing the wedding march.

"The most important swearing-in in Tallahassee is here," Williams said.

Attorneys made an "aggressive" push to end Florida's gay-marriage ban

When six same-sex couples decided to sue Miami-Dade Clerk Harvey Ruvin for marriage licenses, they turned to Miami Beach attorney Elizabeth Schwartz.

Schwartz had long been considered one of South Florida’s top champions for alternative families. In 2010, she had helped overturn a state law prohibiting gay people from adopting children.

Marriage equality was never her priority, she said. But she quickly came to see it "as a proxy for the ways we deny dignity to gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans people."

Schwartz was among the Florida attorneys who spent the last 18 months fighting the state’s ban on gay marriage. Some have a personal connection to the historic fight. Others simply said it was the right thing to do.

Bernadette Restivo, who argued a case in Monroe County, said she got involved because the Florida Keys are known for acceptance and tolerance.

"My [law] partners and I felt that this case should come from Key West because of the enormous gay community," Restivo said, noting that all three of the firm’s partners are straight women.

Read more here.