Pam Bondi Defends Traditional Marriage Law, Opponents Plan to Ignore It
Around the State
With Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi defending the state constitutional amendment which mandates only traditional marriage is recognized in the Sunshine State, her rivals are looking to make an issue of it.
Bondi jumped in last week, filing a brief in favor of the amendment, which was adopted by 62 percent of voters in the 2008 general election, in opposition to a challenge from same-sex couples wishing to be married in Florida.
“In 2008, Florida voters amended their state Constitution to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman,” Bondi said on Monday night. “In response to a recent challenge to this provision, and in keeping with my sworn duty to uphold the laws of the land, my office recently filed a legal brief defending the voters' decision.
“The fundamental argument of our brief is that the voters had the right to adopt this definition of marriage, just as they have the right in the future to change their minds and afford legal recognition to same-sex marriage, should they so choose,” Bondi added. “Defending the wishes of the voters who enacted Florida's marriage amendment necessarily requires me to make good-faith legal arguments. In presenting those arguments, my office understands and respects that there are many who profoundly disagree with the voters' decision. But anything less than the best defense of our voters' policy preferences would disenfranchise the electorate, undermine the judicial process, and cast aside the professional responsibility that guides me every day as attorney general. The subject of same-sex marriage is understandably a matter of intense personal concern and sensitivity for Floridians on all sides of the debate. While defending this constitutional amendment, we have remained respectful and showed consideration for those with differing viewpoints -- acknowledging in the introduction that this issue is one with ‘good people on all sides.’”
Bondi looked to clarify her position about her argument in the brief that same-sex marriage "imposes significant public harm."
“I take exception to those who have sought to manipulate our brief, trying to make it something it is not,” Bondi said. “The brief does not argue for or against same-sex marriage as a matter of policy, wisdom, or fairness. Those decisions are for the voters of each state, not for lawyers or courts. It is my duty to protect Florida from the ‘harm’ of a federal injunction overriding the will of Florida voters.
“We are defending this amendment based solely upon judicial precedent and not the personal views of anyone in our office,” Bondi insisted. “Anything else would be bad lawyering -- just as in all cases, the personal opinions of the advocates and the judges involved are utterly irrelevant.
“Our brief makes the case in defense of Florida's marriage amendment with great respect for the plaintiffs and those whom they represent,” Bondi said in conclusion. “Any suggestions to the contrary are not only wrong, but hurtful, designed to inflame, and insulting to everyone involved. When I defend the voters' decisions with professionalism and civility, I'm simply doing my job because my job is not to write the law, but to defend it.”
But Bondi’s two Democratic opponents made it clear they supported same-sex marriage and would not defend the law despite the amendment winning approval at the ballot box.
“Pam Bondi’s recent action is indefensible and flies in the face of recent court decisions,” former DCF Secretary George Sheldon said on Friday. “An attorney general needs to stand for what is right, not what will score points with the right wing. As one who presided over lifting the ban on gay adoption, I have seen the strong families built by gay couples. We now see that love and commitment are good things and that marriage makes strong families.”
House Minority Leader Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, also said he would not defend the state law recognizing only traditional marriage.
“As attorney general, my No. 1 priority will be protecting the rights of our citizens,” Thurston said on Friday. “Today, Pam Bondi once again showed she has a very different view. She continued to spend our tax dollars to deny the rights of people to marry who they love. Her claim that it will ‘impose significant public harm’ is an affront to millions of Floridians.
“Attorneys general across the country, in red and blue states, have refused to defend similar bans that deny citizens’ their rights,” Thurston added. “Pam Bondi should have followed their lead and defended the rights of Floridians. I will when I am attorney general.”
Tallahassee attorney Bill Wohlsifer, who is running as a Libertarian for attorney general, also said he would not defend the law if he is elected.
“As candidate for Florida attorney general my platform predates the filing of the marriage equality lawsuit,” Wohlsifer insisted. “When elected, I will concede the plaintiffs' position as prevailing, the state's defense as unconstitutional, and file a consent judgment in favor of marriage equality. The Libertarian Party's platform has unequivocally supported same-sex marriage since 1972.”
Reach Kevin Derby at email@example.com.