The U.S. Senate last week took an important vote toward fortifying same-sex marriage rights but Florida's two Senators stood firmly on the wrong side of history.
Echoing a 267-157 vote by the House in July, the Senate on Nov. 16 voted 62-37 for the procedural measure advancing the Respect for Marriage Act, with 12 Republicans joining all Democrats in support.
The measure would repeal provisions that define marriage as between a man and a woman and would recognize any marriage valid under one state's law as valid in another, along with applicable legal benefits, such as Medicare and Social Security.
The impetus for the bill came from the June U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, as same-sex marriage rights rely upon the same privacy underpinnings as the abortion caselaw did, and since some, including conservative Justice Clarence Thomas, have indicated the decision might tip the legal dominoes against gay marriage.
Sen. Marco Rubio's opposition has been particularly despicable.
This summer he responded to Pete Buttigieg, the openly gay U.S. Transportation Secretary, that same-sex provisions were "a stupid waste of time" and that he, Rubio, would focus "on federal problems that matter to real people." Gas prices, for example — not a Democratic agenda "dictated by a bunch of affluent, elite liberals" and "a bunch of Marxist misfits...."
Sen. Rick Scott, for his part, vowed in a press release "to aggressively fight any attempt to take away the ability for same-sex couples to marry" but said the bill didn't adequately protect religious rights.
He endorsed an amendment by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, to address those concerns. Lee, conjuring "same-sex marriage extremists," has stirred fear that "Americans who believe in a traditional definition of marriage are now in danger of having their business licenses revoked...." Never mind that the measure already included language to assuage those financial concerns, ensuring that no church, university or other nonprofit would lose its tax-exempt status because of the legislation.
Rand Hoch, president and founder of The Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, pointed to the broader issue at stake.
"The population of our country has grown to understand and accept (gay marriage) because almost everyone in our country knows gay couples and knows they should share the same rights of marriage as everyone else," Hoch said.
The bill warrants no religious exceptions, he stressed. "That's like wanting to enshrine discrimination within the law," Hoch said.
"We are a secular nation. It's disappointing that people of one segment of the religious community are trying to impose their values on the rest of the nation. That is so un-American. But that could be direction courts are taking us."
Another senator with close ties to Florida also did not vote for the bill. To be fair, Nebraska Republican Ben Sasse, recently selected as incoming president of the University of Florida but still in office as a senator, cast no vote, as he was home with his wife, who'd suffered a seizure. But those concerned about inclusivity at Florida's premier institution of higher learning might consider his website's "Nebraska values" section, with the toot of a dog whistle to "the sanctity of marriage."
Sasse lamented the Supreme Court ruling that opened the door to same-sex marriage: “Marriage brings a wife and husband together so their children can have a mom and a dad,” he said. More recently UF's The Independent Florida Alligator pointed out that he dismissed this year's same-sex bill as a "bullshit" attempt by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi “to divide America with culture wars.”
There's always room for men and women of honor to disagree, and of course for religious conviction. But that's not what this is. There is no honor in outdated values clung to and insisted upon at the expense of our friends' and families' rights.
The arc of civilization has led most of us to understand the proposition that all Americans are equal. That's true no matter how squeamish some of us feel about questions of gender and are tempted to twist meanings of Bible and Constitution to suit. It's true no matter how many of us brush aside for political gain human rights that should by now be self-evident.
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Editorial: Florida Senators out of step on same-sex marriage