Time for Florida to put an end to marriage fight

Almost six years ago, after Florida voters amended the state's constitution to rule out same-sex marriage, a speaker at an Orlando protest told the crowd, "Time is on our side, and our rights will not be denied." That is now looking prophetic.

The days are numbered for state bans on gay marriage. They've been falling like dominoes across the country, as judge after judge has reached the inescapable conclusion that this form of prohibition amounts to unconstitutional government-sanctioned discrimination.

Last week, a state judge in Miami heard arguments in one of several current cases challenging Florida's ban. We don't see how she could — or should — come to a different conclusion than all the other judges. A decision is expected, perhaps in weeks, although you can expect appeals no matter what the ruling.

The avalanche of court decisions striking down gay-marriage bans was set off a year ago by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Justice Anthony Kennedy, author of the majority opinion, wrote, "The avowed purpose and practical effect of the law here in question are to impose a disadvantage, a separate status, and so a stigma upon all who enter into same-sex marriages ."

Acceptance has also come at the local level, with Fort Lauderdale, which boasts a large LGBT population and countless LGBT tourists, recently having passed a non-binding resolution that supports marriage equality.

Florida voters narrowly exceeded the 60 percent threshold to amend the state constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage in 2008. Gay marriage had long been barred under state law, and there was no sign that a majority of legislators were even thinking at the time about repealing the statute. The amendment was a transparent ploy to boost turnout among conservative voters in a presidential election year.

When the amendment passed, only two states permitted same-sex couples to wed. Today, 19 states and the District of Columbia do. The positions of many Americans, including President Obama, have evolved from opposing to supporting gay marriage. In April, a Quinnipiac Poll found Floridians backed it 56-39.

But beyond the expanding map and growing public acceptance for same-sex marriage, experience has shown the typical arguments against it — that it threatens traditional marriage, or deprives children of good parents — are nonsense.

Such nonsense was espoused by Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who is spearheading the state's fight against marriage equality. It was Bondi who came up with the insulting claim that recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states would disrupt existing marriage law and "impose significant public harm." Please.

Florida's ban on same-sex marriage is the plainest form of discrimination. And discrimination deserves no special deference from judges, just because it was imposed by a popular vote.

Florida shouldn't be digging in its heels against committed gay couples who seek only the same recognition and benefits as straight couples. And Florida shouldn't be wasting time and money pursuing the right to discriminate. Assuming a loss in court — which is expected — Florida should forget about appealing and instead join the 21st century.

It's past time to sweep Florida's ban into the dustbin of history, where it belongs.