MAYOR ALVIN BROWN AND THE DODGE
Saying you’re against discrimination is easy — and meaningless. Doing something about it makes you a leader. Show some courage, Mayor.
In the end, the argument isn’t much of an argument at all. If you strip away religious sentiment, if you evolve beyond juvenile in-hole-out-hole theories of human sexuality, if you recognize that just because something has always been one way doesn’t mean it always must be that way, the case against gay marriage quickly and irrevocably collapses.
And so it was Thursday that, in a summary judgment, Monroe County Circuit Judge Luis M. Garcia struck down Florida’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage (though only in Monroe County, for now), ruling that, even though state voters enacted the prohibition six years ago, marriage is a civil right, and civil rights trump public opinion: “This court is aware that the majority of voters oppose same-sex marriage, but it is our country’s proud history to protect the rights of the individual, the rights of the unpopular and the rights of the powerless, even at the cost of offending the majority.”
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi immediately announced she would appeal, though doing so may only speed up the inevitable. If the appellate court sides with Garcia, the statewide ban is history. And even if it doesn’t, a similar case in Miami-Dade County and a federal lawsuit in Tallahassee will do the trick sooner than later.
There are dead-enders — John Stemberger of the Florida Family Policy Council called it an “issue worth dying for” — but many conservatives are coming around to the idea that this front in the war for equality is over. It’s not hard to see where this is going. The moral arc of the universe is inexorably bending toward justice.
Which makes Alvin Brown’s election-season dodging on the most basic questions of fairness all the more infuriating. Even just across the ditch, the Atlantic Beach City Commission will next month extend legal antidiscrimination protections to its gay and lesbian citizens; not only did the Jacksonville City Council refuse to do the same two years ago — making it the only major metro in Florida where it is perfectly legal to discriminate based on sexual orientation — but its putatively Democratic mayor, someone who was all too happy to accept the votes of the city’s LGBT community in his narrow victory three years ago, someone who himself overcame longstanding discriminatory barriers, refuses to lift a finger to do anything about it, or even throw the weight of his bully pulpit behind expanding the HRO.
Case-in-point, the non-answer Brown gave First Coast Connect’s Melissa Ross last week when she asked about the HRO: “Well, Melissa, I always say I don’t believe in discrimination, I think everyone should be treated fairly, and I know that, as someone who believes in opportunity for all, I believe everyone should be treated equally, I still believe that, and I think that’s important for people to know.”
He doesn’t believe in discrimination. Bully for him. But will he as mayor do anything about it? “Again, it’s my position that I don’t believe in discrimination for anyone.”
“Enough to codify it into law?” Ross pressed.
“Uh, again, I don’t believe in discrimination against anyone.” Repeat ad nauseam.
Here’s the deal: No matter how much I might like him otherwise — and I found quite a bit to like in Brown’s recent budget proposal — I will not vote for anyone who doesn’t think the rights of an unpopular minority are worth taking a stand for. Saying you’re against discrimination is easy — and meaningless. Doing something about it makes you a leader. Show some courage, Mayor.