Proponents of same-sex marriage in Florida, who have had their way in recent circuit court rulings down south, leapt Friday to accuse Attorney General Pam Bondi of committing political intrigue and wasting taxpayer dollars by refusing to abandon her defense of the state’s “bigoted” (also known as “traditional”) definition of marriage.
Moreover, they hiss Bondi’s persistent reminders that she took an oath to defend all the state’s laws, not — as has become regrettably fashionable in other states and the District of Columbia — simply those that are convenient, enjoy widespread support or to which she is philosophically aligned.
Instead, she clings, barnacle-like, to the notion that remaining a state and nation of laws, not people, is still the optimal course. How antique. How totally 19th Century.
What caused those pushing gender-neutral nuptials to blow fresh gaskets was Bondi’s recommendation to Florida’s 3rd District Court of Appeal that it belay action on rulings that went against the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, saying she expects the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case soon, and its decision would prevail across the land.
“A ruling from [SCOTUS] would end the constitutional debate, end this appeal and end all related cases,” wrote Bondi. “The State of Florida will respect the United States Supreme Court’s final word.” Well, yeah. That’s pretty much how it works.
Gay marriage supporters as well as state Democratic Party operatives pounced on the AG like coyotes on a tabby cat, but their orchestrated outrage — Florida ACLU executive director Howard Simon claims families are suffering as a result of a “legal strategy that has plagued [Bondi] with awkward and embarrassing media coverage” — can’t camouflage that they’re playing political angles, too.
If SCOTUS takes either of the cases filed by Utah and Oklahoma, the state-by-state murkiness will be resolved no later than June 2015. In Florida, one likely upshot of Bondi’s wait-and-see recommendation is gay partners would endure 10 more months in unmarried cohabitation ... just like millions of their heterosexual countrymen who have turned shacking-up in our new normal.
But biding their time might, to members of the SSM movement, feel like a tactical retreat when momentum is on their side, especially when their worst-case scenario of the embattled ban reaching Tallahassee quickly is not that bad: The state Supreme Court finds merit in the amendment; gay couples are no worse off than they are now; and they still have a shot in the narrowly split SCOTUS.
What happens, instead, if the state Supreme Court upholds the lower court decisions, triggering a stampede to the chapel? You think the sharp, calculating minds at Equality Florida Institute aren’t counting on, say, Anthony Kennedy noticing what’s happened in the third largest state, and factoring into his decision all the legal untangling that would ensue if he tipped the balance toward a ruling favoring state’s rights?
Of course they are. No doubt the redefiners-of-marriage crowd would prefer a victory based on principle, but you can bet they’d pitch just as fabulous a party for one that pivots on practicality. Not fair? Tough.
This sort of advantage-seeking helps explain why they’ve denounced the Bondi Plan. Well, tough back atcha. As soon as next spring, when the U.S. Supreme Court resolves whether states can guide their own course on marriage, the field should be as level as possible. Bondi’s modest, thoughtful recommendation provides the roller.