In April of this year Key West bartenders, Aaron Huntsman and William B Jones – who have been a couple for 11 years – sued Monroe County for a marriage license. Similarly, same-sex couples along with LGBT advocacy group, Equality Florida Institute, sued the Miami-Dade County for the right to marry. The gay marriage battle in Florida is being mirrored across the entire nation. In fact in 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government must recognize same-sex marriages. The question that remains is whether or not statewide bans of same-sex marriage are legal.
Returning to the Florida cases, passionate arguments are being made on both sides. For the sake of clarity, let us first examine what law is being challenged. In November 2008, a citizen–initiated measure was proposed to add a new section to Article 1 of the Florida Constitution to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. The measure, called Amendment 2 (or the Marriage Protection Amendment), was put on a statewide ballot, where 62% of voters (or 4.9 million people) supported the amendment.
Despite a majority vote upholding the law, Circuit Court judges in Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach – one after the other, like falling dominoes – have overturned the law, calling it unconstitutional. The rulings in three of the four cases were stayed wherein licenses will not be issued to gay couples until the decision is upheld by a higher court. As such, the issue has been moved to the Florida Third District Court of Appeals. However, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi filed motions requesting a freeze on appeals of Amendment 2 cases. She said the state will defer to the Supreme Court to decide whether states have the right to ban gay marriage.
Naturally, passions have flared on both sides of the issue. Anthony Verdugo, executive director of the Christian Family Coalition, maintains that the judge cannot overturn Florida law since the Supreme Court has failed to rule that same sex marriage is a constitutional right.
Concerns about what overturning the law will allow – such as not only same-sex marriages but polygamy – have been voiced by co-counsel for the defense.
Conversely, co-counsel for the plaintiffs, Elena Vigil-Farinas, vehemently opposes what she refers to as “mob rule,” also known as the democratic process at work. The argument here is that if the majority – “the one that has the most money … [and] the most position” – doesn’t like a certain segment of society, it gets to rule.
So what’s at stake?
The main legal questions are whether states have a right to ban same-sex marriages and whether same-sex marriages are a constitutional right. Moral/ethical questions are many and vociferous. They include what effect legalizing same-sex marriage will have on the family unit and what the rights should be for individual citizens in this country. It is probable that most readers fall along different positions on the spectrum. However, independent of law and civics, our position as Christians is quite clear:
Jesus never promised us that the road would be easy. Instead, he promised us suffering; that others would hate us because of him. He invited us to take up our cross and follow him. Remember, Jesus lived in the time of Roman rule over Israel. A time filled with corruption and oppression. The laws were not aligned to God’s will, nor did he say they should be. So, amidst all the bitterness and recrimination flung across both sides of this legal/political wall, let us, in Christ, stand firm in our faith, in love for God and our fellow man, and in courage.
Keisha McDonnough is a research analyst and writer. A Jamaican native and South Florida resident, she is passionate about poetry and vow writing. Check out her website at everaftervows.com.