The news that two Supreme Court rulings came down on the side of gay marriage Wednesday was greeted with both dismay and relief by the man who spearheaded the 2008 referendum that enshrined traditional marriage in the Florida Constitution.
John Stemberger, president of the Orlando-based Florida Family Policy Council, called the court’s twin rulings a “mixed bag” – one tossing out the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act, the other supporting the rejection of a California gay marriage ban.
On the one hand, the court could have gone much further in the California petition case and invalidated all state bans on gay marriage, Stemberger said. On the other, he said, the court was engaged in acts of “judicial supremacy,” taking over powers that belong to Congress, which is elected by the people.
But because the Defense of Marriage Act ruling was limited to federal law, and the California referendum case was decided on procedural grounds, Florida’s constitutional definition of marriage as between one man and one woman was unaffected by Wednesday’s developments.
The rulings were not the kind of sweeping changes that could have affected the whole country.
“Fortunately for Florida, it did nothing to affect us, our constitution,” Stemberger said. “This is not the Roe v. Wade they were hoping for.”
Florida voters approved the state’s marriage protection amendment – known at the time as Amendment 2 – during the 2008 general election that put Barack Obama in the White House. In the same election, Arizona and California passed similar traditional-marriage protections.
Like Florida’s, Arizona’s amendment remains unchanged.
But that doesn’t mean Wednesday’s rulings won’t have consequences, Stemberger said, noting this his opposition to gay marriage has not wavered.
Traditional marriage remains the single best way to socialize children, he said, and states where gay marriage is legally accepted are using gay couples as material in children’s school lessons..
“Even if you believe in gay rights, there’s a question about whether that’s appropriate,” he said.
And the new legal acceptance of gay marriage is being used as a legal “weapon” against businesses such as caterers or photographers that prefer not to serve at gay weddings for personal or moral reasons.
“There’s just consequences that happen that people aren’t thinking of,” he said. “Once you remove those things and marriage means everything, it means nothing.”
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