Can We Please Stop Picking on Attorneys General Who Defend Gay Marriage Bans?

Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation
June 3 2014 1:48 PM

Can We Please Stop Picking on Attorneys General Who Defend Gay Marriage Bans?

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi speaks at the 2012 Republican National Convention.

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

On Monday, the LGBTQ community expressed renewed outrage over Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s decision to defend her state’s gay marriage ban. Bondi actually filed her brief back in May, but this week she took the unusual step of standing by her decision in an oddly apologetic press release. That’s what has the community so riled up—the fact that Bondi dared to defend her legal stance that Florida’s laws comport with the federal constitution.

In a year when multiple attorneys general on the left and right have written off their states’ marriage bans as blatantly unconstitutional, it’s easy to criticize Bondi for standing by Florida’s. (Many have also harped on the fact that Bondi, who has been married two or three times, praised the “traditional definition of marriage” and asserted that gay couples lack “family continuity” in her brief.) Bondi, though, is really just doing her job. There are plenty of other reasons to criticize her tenure, including her horrifying plan to speed up executions, coupled with her recent shocking dereliction of duty. But this is one area in which her arch conservatism aligns quite neatly with the duties of her position.

Advertisement

Within the next year or so, the Supreme Court will probably rule that state-level gay marriage bans are unconstitutional. As Justice Antonin Scalia presciently noted, that’s the overwhelming suggestion of United States v. Windsor, in which the court found that the Defense of Marriage Act “violate[d] basic due process and equal protection principles.” Until that point, however, attorneys general like Bondi are free to interpret Windsor as a federalism opinion—that is, a declaration that states must be free to pass their own marriage laws. Yes, these arguments are going to sound retrograde and insulting. (Bondi’s brief suggests that only straight couples can create “stable and enduring family units” and dismisses the “stigmatization and emotional harm caused by the marriage laws” as basically trivial.) That’s because in 2014, the only remaining non-religious arguments against gay marriage are either laughably bizarre or downright derogatory.

But Bondi’s inability to make an anti-gay argument that passes the smirk test is really just proof of how close the marriage equality movement is to victory. There’s no use, at this late date, in lambasting attorneys general who swim against the tide—especially when they do so this meekly. Bondi is going to lose in court, and Florida’s marriage ban will soon be overturned. In the meantime, Bondi might as well throw her best arguments at the wall. It’s clear, by this point, that none of them will stick. 

Mark Joseph Stern is a writer for Slate. He covers science, the law, and LGBTQ issues.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Natasha Lyonne Is Coming to the Live Culture Gabfest. Are You?

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?
Crime

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

Music

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

Tattoo Parlors Have Become a Great Investment

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
Behold
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Honcho Says Celebs Who Keep Nude Photos in the Cloud Are “Stupid”
  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 2 2014 11:01 AM It Wasn’t a Secret A 2013 inspector general report detailed all of the Secret Service’s problems. Nobody cared.
  Business
Business Insider
Oct. 2 2014 11:16 AM Some McDonald's Monopoly Properties Matter More
  Life
The Vault
Oct. 2 2014 11:07 AM Mapping 1890 Manhattan's Crazy-Quilt of Immigrant Neighborhoods
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 2 2014 10:36 AM How Bad Will Adam Sandler’s Netflix Movies Be?
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 2 2014 11:01 AM Surge Pricing Is Not Price Gouging
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 2 2014 9:49 AM In Medicine We Trust Should we worry that so many of the doctors treating Ebola in Africa are missionaries?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?