Reprint of my Sunday column on the latest Florida developments of the gay-marriage debate, and how this issue looks to the eyes of a child (in this case, my 8-year-old daughter):
The march toward marriage equality in Florida took another step last week. Monroe County Chief Circuit Judge Luis Garcia properly ruled that 4.8 million voters got it wrong in 2008 with a state constitutional ban on gay marriage that was inherently unconstitutional.
This isn't a case of some activist judge thwarting the will of the voters, but a rational judge upholding basic tenets of the U.S. constitution. This is a country that has always protected the rights of the minority from the tyranny of the majority, "even at the cost of offending the majority," as Garcia — a Jeb Bush appointee no less — so eloquently put it.
Put another way: If 62 percent of Florida voters backed an amendment that barred blacks from voting, or Muslims from owning land, or Hispanics from speaking Spanish in public, would it be upheld in court? I certainly hope not.
Same-sex couples are simply fighting for their place at the altar, and to have state and federal governments recognize their committed relationships with all the rights and benefits that heterosexual couples enjoy. Some people can't bear this change; just as some people (and the law) couldn't bear interracial couples a few generations ago. "How are we going to explain this to our children?" say some gay-marriage opponents.
Here's how I explained it to my 8-year-old: "If two people love each other, they should be able to get married. That goes for man and woman, man and man, or woman and woman."
"Who does the proposing?" my daughter asked.
"Either one," I said.
"I love pandas," she said. "Can I marry a panda?"
"You can only marry somebody who says, 'I do,' " I said. "Can a panda say, 'I do?' "
"No, but a parrot can," she said.
The wiseacre in me was impressed. I told her that marriage was strictly for humans.
When Garcia's ruling was announced, I thought of a family I met in October 2008, the month before Florida's marriage ban passed: Allan Barsky, his spouse Greg Moore and their 5-year-old daughter Adelle. They were at a picnic held by South Florida Family Pride, a group for same-sex couples with children.
At the time, Barsky, an FAU professor, told me how they were campaigning against Amendment 2. "If it passes, does that mean you and daddy have to break up?" Adelle asked Barsky, who wed Moore in his native Canada in 2003.
Reached on their annual summer vacation in Canada, Barsky wrote by email Friday: "Great to hear the courts are finally recognizing same-sex marriage in Florida and in other states. It sounds as if the [U.S. Supreme Court] will need to hear one or more of the cases being appealed."
Last year, I was on vacation with my daughter in San Francisco when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of a federal ban on gay marriage and allowed California to sanction gay marriage. We watched as rainbow-flag waving crowds celebrated in the streets. Since then, there's been a domino effect, with more states allowing same-sex marriage and more courts overturning bans in states with voter-backed constitutional amendments.
Last month, we were on vacation in New York, taking a Saturday stroll around Battery Park when we came upon a restaurant where an outdoor wedding was being set up. "Ooh, I want to see the bride's gown," my daughter said.
When we came back an hour later, the guests in their chairs, we got a little surprise: There was no bride.
My parents, who've been married 60 years, watched the happy couple exchange vows. A crowd stood along the park pathway, some wearing furrowed looks of disapproval. But everyone was respectful. Nobody shouted or jeered. When it was time for the kiss, there was a smattering of applause.
We moved on. The republic stood.