Fabiola Santiago

Fabiola Santiago: Bondi should get out of the way when it comes to same sex marriages

All adults should have the right to marry and divorce as they see fit.

That’s why, in another set of circumstances, I wouldn’t bring up Attorney General Pam Bondi’s two marriages and divorces – and her current relationship with a Tampa ophthalmologist, this time sealed, not with legal ribbon but in a well-publicized “non-binding” celebration in the Cayman Islands in 2012.

Her marriages, divorces, and out-of-wedlock relationships are her business – not state business.

But it’s hypocritical of this serial bride to use sanctimonious arguments to try to convince a federal court to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and SAVE on behalf of gay and lesbian couples seeking to have their out-of-state marriages recognized in Florida.

The Republican attorney general could only wish to be as blessed with as strong a union as many gay couples enjoy – marriage-like relationships that have lasted longer than all of Bondi’s marriages put together. Many of these are couples raising children who are thriving in families composed of two moms or two dads. So why shouldn’t their unions be legalized and afforded the law’s protections?

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They’re demanding nothing less and nothing more than the rights heterosexuals enjoy.

But in recently filed court documents, Bondi demonizes gay marriage with conservative rhetoric ironically similar to that with which she has been attacked for her lifestyle by ultra conservatives.

Bondi argues that recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states would “impose significant harm” on the state, and, in quite the petty bureaucratic objection, “create significant problems for the state’s pension and health insurance programs.”

If correcting a civil rights wrong inconveniences the state’s human resources department, well … so be it.

But nothing is more hypocritical than Bondi passing judgment where she has failed.

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“The promotion of family continuity and stability is a legitimate state interest,” Bondi believes. “Florida’s marriage laws, then, have a close, direct, and rational relationship to society’s legitimate interest in increasing the likelihood that children will be born to and raised by the mothers and fathers who produced them in stable and enduring family units.”

By this interpretation, it’s not gays but unstable hetereosexuals like Bondi who should be banned from marriage.

“Her response to the ACLU lawsuit highlights the complete absence of any valid justifications for discriminating against an entire class of Floridians,” attorney Elizabeth Schwartz, co-counsel on another lawsuit challenging the state ban on gay marriage, told me Tuesday. “Attorneys general in a number of other states have declined to defend state marriage bans for that reason, recognizing that it is a waste of taxpayer money to so do.”

The least Bondi could do is follow the lead of other attorneys general and get out of the way.

Her response falls in the same two-faced category as the Republican state legislator who voted in favor of drug-testing state employees – exempting elected officials like himself – all the while he was developing a nasty drug habit for which he was forced to resign.

Spare us the do-as-I-say not-as-I-do diatribe.

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