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Florida Lawyer Planning Lawsuit Against County Clerk for Closing Wedding Chapel to Avoid Serving Gay Couples

Block

Earlier this month we reported on a number of Florida county clerks that had decided to discontinue all courthouse wedding ceremonies rather than open up the space to same-sex couples following the legalization of marriage equality in the Sunshine State.  

Now, a Duval County lawyer is planning on filing a lawsuit to reverse Duval Clerk of Courts Ronnie Fussell's decision to close the county's wedding chapel, saying Fussell (pictured below) circumvented the law and crossed the line by "discriminating against large numbers of Jacksonville’s citizens, including both same sex and heterosexual couples, as well as the poor and physically infirmed."

Wrote attorney Eric Block on his law blog:

I am going to challenge this decision. I believe that we will prevail because the Clerks’ actions around the State violate the spirit of the Federal Court Order legalizing same-sex marriages in Florida, but there are additional compelling reasons.

    • FussellWe spent millions of dollars ensuring that our Courthouse is compliant with the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), and people needing ADA accommodations now have nowhere to go.
    • We built our $350 million Courthouse with taxpayer dollars, including revenue from citizens who are gay, citizens requiring the assistance and provisions of the ADA, and most importantly, those who struggle financially.
    • This action of shutting down the Wedding Chapel ironically adversely affects more heterosexual couples than gay couples, simply because more heterosexual couples get married.  Therefore, ironically, the absurdity of our Clerk’s actions is to discriminate more profoundly against the very people that he actually is claiming to “protect.”
    • Additionally, there is a small fee for the use of the Wedding Chapel, and that fee helps to pay the salaries of Courthouse public employees including the very Clerk of the Court who shut down this stream of revenue!  The Clerk does not have the right to make such financial decisions on behalf of the City.

Most obviously, the Clerks’ actions violate the spirit of the Federal Court Order protecting same-sex marriages in the state of Florida.

We are in the process of obtaining Plaintiffs for our intended lawsuit against these Clerks. It is our intention to bring suit on behalf of not only same-sex couples, but heterosexual couples as well, as both are adversely affected by this clear homophobic reaction to the Federal Court Order.

Block, who as a young lawyer got married at the Duval County Courthouse, has also said he will perform wedding ceremonies for any couples (gay or straight) that were impacted by the chapel's closure for free. 


Gay Couple, Second to Marry in Florida, to Attend Tonight's State of the Union Address

Delmay

Newlyweds Todd and Jeff Delmay, who were the second couple to marry in Florida earier this month after Judge Sarah Zabel lifted the stay on her same-sex marriage ruling, will attend tonight's State of the Union address as guests of Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Equality Florida reports.

The Delmays (above, with son Blake), who live in Hollywood, were one of six same-sex couples in the case which successfully challenged the state's gay marriage ban. They have been together for 14 years.

Said Wasserman Schulz: “It is my distinct honor to invite my constituents Todd and Jeff to join me for the President’s State of the Union address at the Capitol...Their bold efforts, along with Equality Florida and the other plaintiff couples, helped turn the page on the legal discrimination of the past and start a new chapter in Florida’s history. I’m looking forward to celebrating their marriage, and highlighting the ongoing effort to achieve equality for all, next week in Washington.”


Jon Stewart Skewers Florida For Fighting Same-Sex Marriage: VIDEO

Stewart

On last night's The Daily Show, host Jon Stewart took the state of Florida to task for the extreme measures it took this month to avoid granting same-sex couples the right to marry. Among the many absurdities involved in the larger unfolding of events pertaining to the arrival of marriage equality in Florida, Stewart highlighted the decision by some counties not to allow any couples to get married at courthouses, a move aimed at blocking same-sex couples from saying "I do" and upholding the so-called "religious liberty" of clerks who personally oppose marriage equality. The fodder is too perfect for Stewart to resist:

"Yes we don’t want to cause 'discriminations' against county court employees who don’t feel like following the law. These people didn’t choose to be county clerks. They were born that way."

Florida claiming to have the moral high-ground on any subject is a bit of joke. Stewart sums it up nicely: "Florida, you don’t get to judge others when your state motto is, 'If Darwin was right we wouldn’t be here.'”

Watch Stewart lampoon the "giant cockroach-choking, hazard-infested, Hooters-dining, reptile-abusing, Everglades-draining, election-ruining, stripper-motorboating, ball-sweat-scented, genitalia-shaped, 24-hour mugshot factory," AFTER THE JUMP...

(h/t Uproxx

Continue reading "Jon Stewart Skewers Florida For Fighting Same-Sex Marriage: VIDEO" »


Demonstrators Protest At HRC DC Headquarters After Fred Sainz Lauds Jeb Bush

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Fred Sainz, a vice president for the Human Rights Campaign’s communications and marketing division, has been quoted in The Washington Post lauding Jeb Bush for his recent comments on same sex marriage’s legalization in Florida.

“The vast majority of the rhetoric coming from many of these Republican politicians is complete and total denial of marriage being an institution that gay couples should have access to,” said Sainz, a former aide to George H.W. Bush during his Vice Presidency during the Reagan administration. “Why his position is novel and his tonal impact is important is he is at least willing to acknowledge that committed and loving gay people can get married.”

To be clear, Jeb Bush’s remarks were not an outright support of same sex marriage, but rather a begrudging deference to the court.

“We live in a democracy, and regardless of our disagreements, we have to respect the rule of law,” Bush said in a statement. “I hope that we can also show respect for the good people on all sides of the gay and lesbian marriage issue — including couples making lifetime commitments to each other who are seeking greater legal protections and those of us who believe marriage is a sacrament and want to safeguard religious liberty.”

In addition to his statement, however, Bush has been frank in expressing his belief that same sex marriage should (have) been put up to a popular vote, rather than decided in the courts. Though Sainz was not speaking on behalf of the HRC as a whole, his opinions regarding Bush are not entirely innocuous. By showering Bush with praise for his “evolution” of opinion, Sainz both allows him the space to dither on taking an appropriately clear position and to traffic in a stealthier brand of coded bigotry.

Demonstrators from One Angry Lesbian gathered outside of the HRC’s DC offices to protest Sainz’s explicit (and therefore the HRC’s implicit) endorsement of Bush.

“Fred Sainz,” the demonstrators said. “Santa says: Remember, bigotry disguised as ‘religious liberty’ is still bigotry!”


NYT's Frank Bruni: Gays Are Not A Threat To Your ‘Religious Liberty’

6a00d8341c730253ef017c380c41fb970b-150wiIn a new op-ed published in The New York Times, columnist Frank Bruni delves into the au courant debate on the intersection of same-sex marriage and so-called “religious liberty."

Bruni highlights how foes of marriage equality, having failed to prove why government has a vested interest in discriminating against same-sex couples, have resolved that the best way to defend their advocating for discrimination is to sound the dog whistle of “religious liberty.” In other words, the enemies of equality argue that they must be exempt from treating all people equally under the law because to do so would infringe upon their “religious liberty.” 

Bruni’s searing and insightful piece also directly responds to a statement made by 2016 Presidential hopeful Jeb Bush who, reacting to the on-set of same-sex marriage in Florida, a state he was once governor of, attempted to walk a fine line between his party’s discriminatory views on same-sex marriage and the view held by a majority of Americans that same-sex couples are entitled to the freedom to marry. Said Bush,

Bush"We live in a democracy, and regardless of our disagreements, we have to respect the rule of law. I hope that we can show respect for the good people on all sides of the gay and lesbian marriage issue – including couples making lifetime commitments to each other who are seeking greater legal protections and those of us who believe marriage is a sacrament and want to safeguard religious liberty." 

What’s wrong with invoking religious liberty in a debate on same-sex marriage? Bruni explains:

"For starters, it perpetuates confusion, some of which is cynically engineered, about the consequences of marriage-equality laws. They do not pertain to religious services or what happens in a church, temple or mosque; no clergy member will be compelled to preside over gay nuptials. Civil weddings are covered. That’s it.

But also, “religious liberty” sounds disturbingly like a dog whistle to the crowd that wants specified, codified exemption from anti-discrimination laws; it’s one of the phrases they lean on. If Bush didn’t know that, he should have. If he did, he just sided, for the moment, with religious extremists."

As James Esseks, a lawyer with the A.C.L.U. told Bruni, this new argument that places "religious liberty" at its heart "is the new wave, the new frame" that will be used to try and re-orient the national conversation on same-sex marriage by those hell-bent on stemming the tide of freedom and justice for same-sex couples. 

Read Bruni's full piece here


Senator Marco Rubio Blasts Ruling Striking Down Florida's Gay Marriage Ban

Marco Rubio

62% of the citizens of Florida passed a law banning gay marriage in the state back in 2008, but the recent court overturn of the ban has right-wing politicians flustered, including Senator Marco Rubio who is pulling out the tired "they shouldn't have done this judicially" argument. Said Rubio in an interview last Wednesday:

If they wanted to change that law, they should have gone to the legislature or back to the Constitution and try to change it. I don’t agree we should be trying to make those changes through the courts.

[...]

While I believe that marriage should be between one man and one woman, while people want to change that law — and a lot of people apparently do – there is a way to do that. You go through the legislature, or you go on on the ballot, but I don’t agree the courts have the power to do this.

He may not agree with it, but it's legal and proper, so Rubio is going to have to find another cause to flog.

Same-sex spouses of state employees, meanwhile, are now eligible for state coverage for health insurance and retirement benefits, Tallahassee Democrat reports:

“Employees whose marriages will be legally recognized in Florida as of Jan. 6, 2015, have qualifying status change event window between Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015, through Friday, March 6, 2015, to enroll in a family plan,” chief of operations Suzette Furlong said in a memo to personnel officers and benefit coordinators.

 


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