Talalhassee – Four years ago, Florida’s three decades-old ban on same-sex couples adopting children fell when then-governor Charlie Crist refused to appeal. That’s the motivation to keep fighting for marriage equality in Florida, leaders said in two separate press conferences held on Sept. 22.
The two phone conferences, held in Tallahassee and Miami, featured Nadine Smith of Equality Florida, George Sheldon, a Democrat running for Florida Attorney General, and Martin Gill, the plaintiff in the historic adoption case four years ago.
Smith wasted no time attacking Bondi’s ongoing appeals to uphold Florida’s ban on same-sex marriages and Gov. Rick Scott’s support of those appeals.
“(They) have decided to continue to inflict harm on my family and on hundreds of thousands of people across the state of Florida,” said Nadine Smith, who is raising a son with her partner. “There is no one who believes in equality and justice who can stand behind Attorney General Pam Bondi.”
As a Tampa legislator, Sheldon voted against the adoption ban in 1977 when lawmakers approved it. After it was overturned, Sheldon was secretary of the state Department of Children and Families when then-Gov. Charlie Crist chose not to appeal the decision. If elected attorney general, Sheldon said he’d drop the appeals on gay marriage.
“Children need loving parents, and it doesn’t matter if those parents are two women or two men, or a single parent,” Sheldon said in a statement. “It is time we all not only accept that, but embrace it as part of what America is.”
In an interview with the Tampa Bay Times and Bay News 9, Bondi has said she has “many gay friends” but wouldn’t say if she personally supports same-sex marriage. She has consistently said it is her job as attorney general to uphold the state Constitution, which had a voter-approved amendment added in 2008 banning marriage equality in the state.
However, after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the portion of the Defense of Marriage Act prohibiting federal recognition of same-sex marriages, marriage equality has won more than 30 times in federal, state and appellate courts.
So far this year, five Florida judges have overturned Florida’s ban, including federal Judge Robert Hinkle, who called it an “obvious pretext for discrimination.”
Bondi had hoped to wait for a U.S. Supreme Court decision on the matter and bypass the State Court. That is unlikely, and unfair, according to Gill.
Gill recounted the time Sheldon called him four years ago to tell him the state wouldn’t appeal.
“It brought us tears of joy,” Gill said during the conference.
Although he had hoped the Florida Supreme Court would have made a final determination on the constitutionality of the ban, McCollum issued a statement that the Gill case was not the right one to do that.
At the time, Bondi was running for attorney general against Democrat Dan Gelber. Gays should be able to adopt, said Gelber, who praised the decision. Bondi refused to say then if she personally supported the ban, but said she would appeal it.
Bondi has since been more specific. “I’m not against gay adoption,” Bondi said earlier this month.
She said voters had approved the marriage ban. The adoption ban was merely a law passed by the Legislature.
Smith wasn’t impressed.
“Attorney General McCollum and Gov. Crist chose not to appeal and the (gay adoption) ban fell,” Smith said. “She cannot pretend her hands are tied.”