This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will review the hot-button issue of same-sex marriage. Hearings today and Wednesday could determine if the U.S. Constitution's promise of equal protection allows legal distinctions between gay and straight couples.
Floridians on both sides of the debate, contacted by the Tampa Bay Times Monday, shared their opinions.
"The Supreme Court has said marriage is a basic civic right. Just like freedom of speech, freedom of religion. Freedom means freedom for everyone. Why aren't we free to marry the person we love most? Why would the government want to get in the way of people caring for each other the best they can?"
— Brian Winfield, managing director of finance and administration at Equality Florida, who recently married his partner of 26 years in New York.
"Society has survived thousands of years with a one man, one woman marriage. It's uniformly recognized in all world religions and it has been for centuries. It's only being changed now because of political pressure. That doesn't serve the best interests of our culture. Judicial marriage as we know it would erode, diminish. I don't know why we're even talking about this because it's not going to happen."
— David Caton, founder of the Florida Family Association
"It's important for couples to have a wedding — not just the physical celebration, but all the federal laws that come with it. Marriage is an equal right, a civil right. It's about love. And, from my experience, I know it helps the economy. You wouldn't believe this, but gay people spend way more money on weddings than straight people."
— Michael Jamrock, commitment ceremony planner and founder of EnGAYged Weddings in Port Charlotte.
"Whenever you have a mother and a father present, you have lower levels of social maladies in children. Less drugs, drinking, sexual promiscuity, abortion. The inverse is true. You take away the mother and the father and you cause profound problems. People need to ask: What's in the best interest of the child?"
— John Stemberger, president of the Florida Family Policy Council
"It's simply a human rights issue. There is nothing within a marriage contract that has anything to do with anyone's religious beliefs and social beliefs. It'd add a strong layer of tolerance to the world we live in and vastly improve the lives of thousands. It will add a certain level of security to so many families."
— Jarrod Scarbrough, co-organizer of getEQUAL in Tampa
"I would rather it not be [legal]. Maybe because of the kids. It's not a good message, I believe. I know people who are gay and I have no problem with it. I feel like if I didn't grow up in any religious background, I wouldn't care. It's the fact that I know better."
— Jesus Fough, 26-year-old Clearwater chef who was raised a Jehovah's Witness
"Everyone is entitled to equal protection of the laws. Everyone is entitled to choose who they marry, who they spend their life with. It's not a religious issue. It's a civic issue. We're all in this world to try to get along, be happy, love each other. We should be treated equally."
— Mary Meeks, Orlando civil rights attorney
Danielle Paquette can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4224.