Arizona LGBT Issues Spill into Florida Governor's Race
Around the State
LGBT issues took center stage in Florida this week in both the gubernatorial race and in the courts.
Gov. Rick Scott took to the national airwaves Wednesday, appearing on MSNBC's “The Daily Rundown” with Chuck Todd. Todd questioned the governor about if he supports legislation in Arizona that allows business owners to refuse to do business with gays citing religious reasons. The bill passed both chambers of the Arizona Legislature but was vetoed by Brewer on Wednesday.
Todd asked if Scott would try to recruit baseball teams currently in Arizona for spring training if Brewer signs the law.
"Well, look, I go after the spring training teams,” Scott replied. “I'm competing with governors across the country to bring more jobs to Florida.
“Chuck, I haven't seen the bill,” Scott reiterated. “I want all of the spring training teams to be back here. The first day of spring training today."
“Do you think a bill like that, religious beliefs, should be used as a basis of denying services to a gay couple?" Todd asked.
"I haven't seen the bill, but I can tell you I'm trying to recruit companies every day to our state," Scott replied.
Former Gov. Charlie Crist, who leads opponent Nan Rich in the race for the Democratic nomination to challenge Scott in November despite spending most of his political life as a Republican, came out swinging at his Republican rival over the matter.
"Discrimination has no place in America,” Crist said Wednesday. “None in Arizona. None in Florida. For Gov. Brewer, this should be the ultimate no-brainer. Veto the law.
"Moreover, the fact that Gov. Scott won't take a stand on whether Gov. Brewer should veto the Arizona discrimination law is stunning. We should always be sending the message that Florida is open for all of our residents, open for all tourists and open for all businesses."
But Scott fired back in a statement Wednesday afternoon. "I don’t want to tell Gov. Brewer what to do, she can do what’s best for her state. From my understanding of that bill, I would veto it in Florida because it seems unnecessary."
Said the governor, "In Florida we are focused on economic growth, and not on things that divide us. We are for freedom here in Florida. And we want everyone to come here, create jobs, and live in freedom, and that includes religious liberty.
"I am very much opposed to forcing anyone to violate their conscience or their religious beliefs, and of course, I’m very much opposed to discrimination. As a society, we need to spend more time learning to love and tolerate each other, and less time trying to win arguments in courts of law," he said. "Other states can spend their time fighting over issues like this, but in Florida we are laser focused on creating jobs and opportunities. It’s working, and we need to keep it going and will not get distracted by this or anything else."
On the legal front this week, social and religious conservative groups filed a motion to intervene in Pareto v. Rubin, a Miami-Dade case where six same-sex couples are looking to overturn Florida’s state constitutional amendment that defines marriage as only between a man and a woman. A majority of voters -- 62 percent -- passed that amendment back in 2008.
Among the conservative groups filing the motion Tuesday were Florida Family Action and Liberty Counsel. But other groups outside the right joined the motion the same day, including the Florida Democratic League, a Hispanic group which is currently facing fire from the Florida Democratic Party over its name, and People United to Struggle for Equality.
"Marriage is a foundational societal institution that transcends racial, political, and religious lines," said Mathew Staver, the founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel.
"This lawsuit threatens to disenfranchise millions of Floridians who voted to affirm natural marriage and to supplant the clearly expressed will of a supermajority of Florida’s voters with the radical vision of homosexual activists who cannot win at the ballot box," insisted Horatio Mihet, an attorney for Liberty Counsel. "We are committed to provide a vigorous defense for marriage and voting rights.”
But activists looking to expand LGBT rights are also ramping up their operations. Equality Florida, which has joined the six couples fighting to overturn the state constitutional amendment, geared up this week, holding a tele-townhall conference on Monday night to rally supporters. Emmy and Golden Globe actress Sharon Gless, best known for her role on “Cagney and Lacey,” is taking center stage for Equality Florida, recording a video supporting its campaign to overturn the law. Gless has lived in Florida for more than 20 years.
"There are many celebrities who call Florida home, and we applaud Sharon Gless for publicly expressing her support for LGBT equality," said Nadine Smith, the CEO of Equality Florida, on Monday. "We are at a tipping point in the movement for full equality, and the voices of allies like Sharon Gless will make a huge difference."
Reach Kevin Derby at firstname.lastname@example.org.