It was a moment of stark contrasts the other day at the Dade County Courthouse: gay vs. straight, well-to-do vs. working class, secular humanists vs. evangelicals, gay lovers vs. homophobes.
What brought them together physically and separated them philosophically was gay marriage. More than 200 people — hard-core supporters and opponents of gay marriage — tried to jam into historic old Courtroom 6-1, where Judge Sarah Zabel was to hold a hearing. So many spectators they had to open an adjacent courtroom outfitted with a large TV. It was there that the anti-gay-marriage group, wearing Respect My Vote signs, broke into Amazing Grace. They were answered by the pro-gay-marriage group, which began chanting, “Marriage equality, marriage equality.” Police moved in to defuse the demonstration, but the passions on this issue will not soon be quelled.
The tide is running fast in favor of same-sex marriage. It has been since the Supreme Court last year struck down key provisions of DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act. The court said that all states, even those with gay-marriage bans, must recognize same-sex marriages performed in states where it’s legal. Since that ruling, some 23 courts have struck down state bans as unconstitutional.
The judges — of all political stripes and persuasions — have ruled the bans violate the Constitution’s equal-protection and due-process clauses. And those guarantees trump voter-approved bans.
In half a dozen states, the attorneys general chose not to defend the bans in court because they saw the handwriting on the wall (and the court orders) and concluded they’d lose. In Florida, Attorney General Pam Bondi sat on the sidelines for several months, but finally announced a few weeks before the Miami-Dade hearing that she would defend Florida’s ban. In her court filings, Bondi said that, “Disrupting Florida’s existing marriage laws would impose significant public harm.” She failed to say exactly what the harm would be because there would be none. Still, Bondi’s arguments got a big thumbs-up from groups such as the Christian Family Coalition of Miami, which praised Bondi for being “on the right side of history.”
But she’s not.