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News

Florida’s gay-marriage ban goes before Circuit Court judge

Advocates and opponents await ruling of Judge Sarah Zabel

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The uncivil right

Perhaps it was only a coincidence that last week’s July 2 circuit court hearing on Miami-Dade County’s Pareto v. Ruvin marriage equality case fell squarely on the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Civil Rights Act, but attorneys for the six plaintiff couples seeking to have Florida’s gay marriage ban overturned certainly didn’t see it that way. Somewhere toward the beginning of the two-hour grudge match between the obvious (imminent equality) and the already debunked (every bad psychological study offered by the desperate defense), attorneys for the plaintiffs dropped references to both that act and the following weekend’s Independence Day celebrations. This is an American story, no matter how much the religious part of the defense – meaning the Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver – tried to malign equality mongers with the horrible secular fate of them there “Scandinavian countries” that hardly even believe in marriage anymore because of the gays. Oh, but those cheekbones.

The arguments on both sides stayed fairly close to the now dog-eared script, seeing as all 21 judges presented with a similar marriage case since last year’s DOMA and Windsor decisions have ruled in favor of marriage equality. (You can read our play-by-play at blogs.orlandoweekly.com/bloggytown). Plaintiff attorneys effectively used the defendant’s, cough, espousal of the key social tenets of marriage – loving families are stable families that raise stable kids, etc. – in order to prove the point that same-sex couples should also get a go at the good life. Also, an attorney representing the amicus brief filed by Orlando, Miami Beach and Key Biscayne in favor of equality posited that the continued enforcement of discrimination was a challenge to the “legitimacy” of local governing bodies.

Meanwhile, representative counsel from Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office provided little reprieve for stammering Staver, who, at one point, even questioned whether the plaintiffs were citizens of Florida. Oh, and also, those 21 other judges that have ruled since Windsor were “overreading” the precedent that Supreme Court decision set, because Staver willed it.

By way of distraction and/or deflection, the tired tropes of polygamy and polyamory were given an airing before falling swiftly to the floor of idiocy. Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel didn’t appear to be having any of the grunted conspiracy theories, more often than not questioning the defense about how dumb it sounded. In the end, at least last week, no decision was made, though most people with hearts and brains agreed that Zabel could have just thrown the marriage ban out then and there, because, well, 21 other judges have.

“I will take it under advisement,” Zabel dismounted. “And have a good afternoon.”

We’re looking forward to even better ones.

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