Florida Says Same-Sex Marriage Is Fine For One Couple, And One Couple Only

If there's one political and legal reality that's been made thoroughly, absolutely clear throughout last year, it's that marriage equality is on the march. And sooner or later, it's coming to your state — "whether you like it or not," as former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom famously once said. The reason for this, broadly, is the complete dearth of reasonable legal arguments against it by its opponents, and the surge of court rulings in its favor. But now, one anti-equality state is trying out a strange new argument: Florida's arguing that a same-sex marriage ruling applies only to one couple, in what's perhaps the most tortured reasoning yet on this issue.

Make no mistake, Florida and its Republican-led government, under Governor Rick Scott and attorney general Pam Bondi, are fighting a decidedly ignoble quest: to maintain their state's right to legally discriminate against gay and lesbian citizens. At this juncture, with so many federal court rulings, a Supreme Court ruling and denied appeals, and well over half the states distributing marriage licenses, it's an unavoidable reality — they must really dislike the idea of gay weddings, huh?

In this case, it's led them to a rather desperate line of attack — insisting that a recent ruling by US District Judge Robert Hinkle, as written, only applies to the issuance of one marriage license, to just one same-sex couple. Filed on Monday, a brief from Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, filed by Solicitor General Allen Winsor, mounted the challenge.

A Florida clerk of court is an independent constitutional officer. ... If the Court intends the injunction to have effects beyond those that appear on its face… the Court may wish to provide appropriate clarification.
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The argument is purely a literal, textual one, over whether Hinkle's ruling was worded broadly enough to cover all 67 of the state's court clerks and all the same-sex couples who wish to be married.

But here's the really inane thing about all this: if this argument actually means the state would get to wage another round of litigation on this issue, they'll still lose in the end. There simply hasn't been a coherent, fruitful legal argument that same-sex marriage opponents have been able to present in court over the last few years, thanks to burgeoning legal precedents, and changing social norms. Suddenly, "we're uncomfortable with gay marriage" isn't an argument anyone needs to take seriously anymore. It's nothing but a statement of naked discrimination.

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So really, even if Florida pulls off this last-ditch effort to halt the issuance of same-sex marriage licenses, it's still ultimately a dead-end. In simplest terms, all this action accomplishes, as well as actions like it around the country, is to stall. To take people who everyone knows will someday soon be legally allowed to marry, and say, "no, not you, not yet. Sorry, wait a few months, or a few years." And, of course, to squander public money to do it. Considering not everyone is guaranteed a few more years, that's a pretty sad state of affairs.

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