SUPREME COURT

Florida should begin conversation over same-sex marriage

 

ros-lehtinen.house.gov

As Republicans, we are united in our common conservative ideals of limited government, open and fair markets and allegiance to the family values that nurture a healthy and functional society. When government acts in ways that affect individual freedoms, we believe it should strive to promote personal responsibility, commitment to honorable behavior and stability and opportunities for families. Thus, ensuring every individual’s civil freedom to marry the person they love is a basic component to the pursuit of happiness.

The recent U.S. Supreme Court cases regarding the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s ban on same-sex marriage, known as Proposition 8, were fundamentally about whether gay and lesbian Americans deserve the same rights and freedoms as everyone else. In his ruling, Justice Anthony Kennedy, an appointee of President Ronald Reagan, affirmed the principle that all couples who are legally married in their state deserve equal respect and treatment under the law.

A majority of the court found that DOMA diminished the importance and protections of marriage for same-sex couples and that the law presented certain harm to the children of those couples. For thousands of same-sex married couples, this ruling means that they can better protect each other and their families as heterosexual married couples have been allowed to under federal law.

However, the repeal of DOMA will expand protections for those legally married only in the 13 states that recognize the freedom to marry whomever one loves. In 37 other states, including Florida, same-sex couples will continue to face discrimination. Why would we want our fellow Floridians to have fewer rights and responsibilities than citizens in other states?

In fact, many of our fellow citizens have moved to Florida from some of these states that offer full equality — how does the inequality here hurt their families or the appeal of calling our state home? Laws that treat citizens differently are at odds with the principles of individual liberty. We believe it is time for a renewed conversation in Florida about how to fix that disparity.

In a 2008 referendum, slightly more than the required 60 percent of Florida voters decided to ban marriage and civil unions for same-sex couples. We faced the challenge of telling our gay and lesbian family members, friends, neighbors and co-workers that they were less deserving of the rights afforded to other loving, committed couples. While passage of this constitutional ban was disappointing for many of us, it is also important to point out that there were good people — also our family, neighbors and friends — who were driven by strongly held beliefs to support this amendment five years ago.

But, five years is a lifetime in politics, and the landscape on the issue of the freedom to marry has changed in remarkable ways. Today, poll after poll shows an overwhelming majority of Americans supporting the freedom to marry for same-sex couples. In our home state of Florida, polling has showed that 54 percent of the population supports marriage equality, and 75 percent supports some form of legal recognition for these couples. Just last year, three states legalized same-sex marriage at the ballot box. Additionally, three states passed marriage equality legislatively this year.

Given these trends, it is no surprise that the ranks of supporters of marriage equality in Washington, D.C., have swelled to include the president of the United States, 55 Republican and Democratic members of the U.S. Senate and more than 180 bipartisan members of the U.S. House of Representatives. In fact, we were honored to join more than 130 of our fellow conservatives in filing an amicus brief before the Supreme Court making the conservative case for the freedom to marry.

In light of the court’s rulings in support of civil marriage for same-sex couples, Florida should begin to evaluate the decision that was made five years ago. The path to removing our state’s ban on the freedom to marry will be very challenging, and will take time to do so thoughtfully and with respect for everyone’s beliefs and opinions. It is wrong to deny LGBT Floridians the basic rights enjoyed by so many other Americans. We must actively, and authentically, engage our fellow citizens to ensure that the rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution are extended to all Floridians.

Our nation has taken a number of historic strides towards equality, from the repeal of the military’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy to this recent repeal of DOMA. Much work remains to secure maximum freedoms under the law for all our citizens, but when we look back on these efforts, we will be proud to have been on the right side of history.

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, represents Florida’s 27th District in Congress. Jonathan Kislak is a former Republican appointee in the administration of President George H.W. Bush and served in 2008 as chairman of the Florida Red and Blue campaign, which organized to defeat Florida’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

Read more Other Views stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
A 1930s photograph of a Pan Am airplane flying over Miami clearly shows the courthouse as one of the tallest buildings in Miami.

    MIAMI-DADE COUNTY

    Respect courthouse history, but it’s time for a new one

    I love the Dade County Courthouse, the place where Al Capone and would-be presidential assassin Giuseppe Zangara were tried and convicted. But the public is in dire need of a new courthouse in downtown Miami.

  •  
Tony Lesesne

    STOPPED BY COPS

    Tony Lesesne: Overkill, and an apology

    Yes, it happens in South Florida, too — and it shouldn’t. Black men pulled over, needlessly hassled by police officers who give the rest of their colleagues a bad name, who make no distinction when a suspect has no other description than ‘black male,’ who harass residents because they can. A North Miami Beach officer pulls over a black man in a suit and tie — and behind the wheel of an Audi that simply had to be stolen, right? In another Miami-Dade city, an officer demands that an African-American man installing a vegetable garden justify why he has a shovel and seedlings. Detained for possession of cilantro? Here are five South Floridians who tell of their experiences in this community and beyond, years ago, and all too recently.

  •  
Delrish Moss

    STOPPED BY COPS

    Delrish Moss: Out after dark

    “I was walking up Seventh Avenue, just shy of 14th street. I was about 17 and going home from my job. I worked at Biscayne Federal Bank after school. The bank had a kitchen, and I washed the dishes. A police officer gets out of his car. He didn’t say anything. He came up and pushed me against a wall, frisked me, then asked what I was doing walking over here after dark. Then he got into his car and left. I never got a chance to respond. I remember standing there feeling like my dignity had been taken with no explanation. I would have felt better about that incident had I gotten some sort of dialogue. I had not had any encounters with police.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category