Earlier this week, Florida’s Attorney General Pam Bondi angered more than a few of the state’s residents and media figures when she argued that removing the state’s ban on same-sex marriage (or recognizing marrages performed in other states) would “impose significant public harm,” according to David Badash of The New Civil Rights Movement.
Badash reports that Bondi, a 48-year old Tea Party Republican who has been married three times, also suggested that same-sex couples don’t create stable or enduring homes.
In the court filing Bondi wrote —in response to a federal suit brought against the state last March by eight same-sex couples, South Florida’s largest LGBT advocacy organization SAVE (Safeguarding American Values for Everyone), and the American Civil Liberties Union — that “Florida’s marriage laws have a close, direct, and rational relationship to society’s legitimate interest in increasing the likelihood that children will be born to and raised by the mothers and fathers who produced them in stable and enduring family units.”
Bondi’s inaccurate arguments raised the ire of LGBT groups, civil rights organizations including the ACLU, and a few media outlets.
“Lost in the uproar was another statement, buried deeper in the response, that sounded more potentially inflammatory,” wrote The Tampa Bay Times. “In a section on marriage’s historical definition, Bondi seemed to argue that unions between men and women produce more favorable environments for children.”
In the statement, Bondi wrote, “The promotion of family continuity and stability is a legitimate state interest. Florida’s marriage laws, then, have a close, direct, and rational relationship to society’s legitimate interest in increasing the likelihood that children will be born to and raised by the mothers and fathers who produced them in stable and enduring family units.”
Badash countered that “[t]he procreation argument is not a valid legal argument to deny marriage. But, regardless, many same-sex couples do raise their own biological children — at least of one of the members of the couple. Many gay same-sex couples raise the children one of the fathers may have had in a previous marriage, for instance. Many lesbian same-sex couples raise the children one of the mothers may have had in a previous marriage, too. And same-sex parents also adopt the children sometimes abandoned by those “mothers and fathers who produced them” in non-stable and non-enduring family units. There are, of course, other methods for couples to conceive.”
SAVE’s executive director Tony Lima fired back, telling the Miami Herald, “Attorney General Bondi should know that what truly causes public harm is discriminatory rhetoric that divides Floridians instead of uniting them. It’s our responsibility to hold the Attorney General accountable this November for her stance against equality and frankly against the voters of Florida.”
The State Solicitor General Allen Winsor backtracked Bondi’s statement saying that the “harm” she spoke of had to do with the lawsuit itself. “Florida’s voters approved a constitutional amendment, which is being challenged, and it is the Attorney General’s duty to defend Florida law,” he told Gary Fineout at Associated Press. “Florida is harmed whenever a federal court enjoins enforcement of its laws, including the laws at issue here.”