TAMPA BAY TIMES
By Alex Leary
Florida's political figures have weighed in on today's landmark Supreme Court decision in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized gay marriage throughout the United States. Here are their statements:
Gov. Jeb Bush, Republican presidential candidate: "Guided by my faith, I believe in traditional marriage. I believe the Supreme Court should have allowed the states to make this decision. I also believe that we should love our neighbor and respect others, including those making lifetime commitments. In a country as diverse as ours, good people who have opposing views should be able to live side by side. It is now crucial that as a country we protect religious freedom and the right of conscience and also not discriminate.”
Sen. Marco Rubio, Republican presidential candidate: “I believe that marriage, as the key to strong family life, is the most important institution in our society and should be between one man and one woman. People who disagree with the traditional definition of marriage have the right to change their state laws. That is the right of our people, not the right of the unelected judges or justices of the Supreme Court. This decision short-circuits the political process that has been underway on the state level for years. While I disagree with this decision, we live in a republic and must abide by the law. As we look ahead, it must be a priority of the next president to nominate judges and justices committed to applying the Constitution as written and originally understood. The next president and all in public office must strive to protect the First Amendment rights of religious institutions and millions of Americans whose faiths hold a traditional view of marriage. This is a constitutional duty, not a political opinion. Our nation was founded on the human right of religious freedom, and our elected leaders have a duty to protect that right by ensuring that no one is compelled by law to violate their conscience. I firmly believe the question of same sex marriage is a question of the definition of an institution, not the dignity of a human being. Every American has the right to pursue happiness as they see fit. Not every American has to agree on every issue, but all of us do have to share our country. A large number of Americans will continue to believe in traditional marriage, and a large number of Americans will be pleased with the Court’s decision today. In the years ahead, it is my hope that each side will respect the dignity of the other.”
Pam Bondi, Attorney General of Florida: “We have always sought finality on this important constitutional issue, and today the United States Supreme Court provided the clarity our state and country was seeking. Our country has vigorously debated the issue, with good people on all sides. Many on both sides feel strongly about the issue, having deeply held and sincere beliefs. Legal efforts were not about personal beliefs or opinions, but rather, the rule of law. The United States Supreme Court has the final word on interpreting the Constitution, and the court has spoken.”
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla: "Today's ruling reaffirms one of the paramount principles of America that we're all created equal and have the right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.”
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla: "Earlier this month, I had a chance to officiate the wedding of Robert and Alex, a couple from Miami Beach in my home state of Florida. Robert said he used to think he would never have the opportunity to get married. Today's decision means that opportunity is now available to all Americans, regardless of whom they love. But the fight for full equality is not over yet. GOP-controlled legislatures across the country have been introducing measures to allow discrimination against our LGBT friends and neighbors under the banner of 'religious freedom' -- with support from Republican presidential hopefuls."
Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla: “Today’s Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges? is a momentous step forward in the fight for equality. I join the entire LGBT community, along with their friends and family, in celebrating this historic day. For far too long, same-sex couples have been forced to suffer discrimination and prejudice simply because of who they love. The Court’s decision confirms what the majority of Americans already believe to be true – that same-sex couples deserve the same access to the security and dignity that come along with the institution of marriage. It is our responsibility to ensure that that our laws protect the rights of all of our citizens, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation. While today’s decision is indeed a significant victory, we must ensure that our nation as a whole will continue to work to implement comprehensive non-discrimination protections that recognize the equal rights of all Americans at the federal, state, and local levels of government."
Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Fla: "This is a historic day in our nation’s history. For too long, same-sex couples have been discriminated against because of who they are and who they love. Today, that ends. We are a nation that prides itself on the diversity of our citizens, and I applaud the Supreme Court’s decision to give same-sex couples equal marriage rights under the law once and for all."
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla: "Our nation was founded on the basis of equal rights and today, the Supreme Court’s decision reflected our values. The ability to marry is now a right all Americans have and we no longer must wonder why one class of people has been singled out under the law. Simply put, and the majority of Americans would agree, the union of two people in marriage should not be based on gender, but on love."
Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla: "“Today, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that equal rights are fundamental to our American values and our nation can now turn the page on a patchwork of discriminatory state laws that have blocked marriage equality. It is a great day for this historic announcement in Tampa Bay as we kick off our annual LGBT Pride Parade, one of the largest in Florida. It is truly a historic step forward – all loving couples who make a lifetime commitment to each other should be recognized no matter where they live, move or travel to throughout the country. In my community and throughout my home state of Florida we have fought resolutely for equal rights. It is clear today that those who have opposed marriage equality stand on the wrong side of history and all the hard work in my community, state and throughout the country will not be undone by those in other states standing in the way of progress and equality. “
Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla: "In 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on another landmark case, Loving v. Virginia, that enabled blacks and whites to legally enter into marriage. The world has evolved even more in the ensuing decades, which the court recognized today in its 5 to 4 decision that requires all states to perform same-sex marriages and to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. I am proud to live in an America in which gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people have the freedom and fundamental right to marry the man or woman they have chosen to love."
Rep. David Richardson, D-Miami Beach: “The court’s decision is welcomed and overdue. Now that the rights of so many Floridians are fully protected, I urge those of us who direct state policy to embrace this moment and expand beyond legality and open our arms to equality and opportunity. We all need to recognize the environment we can create in Florida as a progressive, accepting place to live and do business. This is our chance to reverse decades of bigotry and perception about our great state. Today is a great day in American history. I hope we have the wisdom and will in Florida to take advantage of this incredible opportunity. Let’s make this a day when more than the law of the United States changed and seize the initiative to affirm Florida as a welcoming home to all people and all enterprises.”
Rep. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa: “Finally. After years of struggle, the United States of America recognizes the right of all Americans to marry the person that they love regardless of gender or sexual orientation. Within the last decade, state after state has taken important steps towards marriage equality. In a nation whose founding principles are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, today from Seattle to the Florida Keys our LGBT brothers and sisters can truly enjoy a full measure of liberty. Let us also remember all of the brave patriots who led the way for universal rights. Our history is full of citizens who stood up for what was right in the face of ignorance and hate. Without those everyday heroes we would not be able to celebrate the triumph of marriage equality today. The pursuit of a more perfect union is never done. There are still people who through no fault of their own go through life facing fear and discrimination. We must continue to fight for the voiceless, the disenfranchised, and all those who are denied a fair shot. Let today be the start of the next chapter in the march for equality. There is more work to do, and I know that we are up for the challenge.”
Howard Simon, executive director, ACLU of Florida: “This is an historic win for couples in Florida and across the country. Six months ago, the freedom for all to marry was secured in Florida when a federal judge issued a ruling in our case that struck down Florida’s ban on marriages for couples of the same sex. Today’s historic ruling means that victory – and similar court victories across the country -- will stand and that the remaining states will all be barred from refusing to issue marriage license to loving and committed same-sex couples. The Supreme Court has affirmed what a majority of Floridians and indeed all Americans have come to understand: that the freedom to marry is a precious and fundamental right that we all share under the Constitution, and that no family should be denied that. We are proud of our colleagues from the two ACLU lawsuits that were among the cases that brought about this decision. But more importantly, we are thrilled for the hundreds of thousands of couples and their families for whom this victory has been decades in the making. As we celebrate this day and look forward to this decision being swiftly implemented nationwide, we must prepare to turn the momentum of this moment to dismantling the remaining barriers to full equality for LGBT citizens. In Florida, that means making sure that LGBT Floridians are also protected in civil rights laws against workplace and housing discrimination and ensure that the civil rights of transgender Floridians are also protected by civil rights laws. In addition, we must prevent the enactment of laws that would give license to discriminate against LGBT people. No American family should be denied the full rights and security promised by our country under law simply because of who they are. Today’s ruling brings us one big step closer to securing full equality for all Americans.”
Alan Clendenin, Vice Chair, Florida Democratic Party: "Elections matter! Today we celebrate one of the most significant Supreme Court rulings in this generation. Obergefell v. Hodges now joins the landmark decisions of Brown v. Board of Education and Roe v. Wade. This is a milestone in our growth towards a more perfect union. Elections matter! It is imperative we elect leaders with the conviction to nominate and appoint judges and others, who will continue to support, defend and protect the rights of all Americans. The actions of one President have led to the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act. One President has fought for and aggressively defended affordable health care. Today, millions of Americans have access to affordable healthcare because one man was elected to the White House, boosted by a “yes we can” national wave. Yes we can, and we did, but we are not finished. We must continue our quest towards a more perfect union. Our quest continues until every corner of America is free of prejudice, every community is free of violence, every child can play on their street, every child can attend their school, and reach their highest potential without the fear of being bullied. Elections matter!