Florida legalizes same-sex marriage, U.S. Supreme Court decision looms


Jenna Liu

As of early January, gay and lesbian couples can now marry in the state of Florida, a development that prefaced the Supreme Court’s decision to hear four cases regarding gay marriage, the result of which could affect every state. The court is expected to release their decision by late June.
The Florida ruling was the result of many months of appeals regarding the case Brenner v. Scott. In deciding the case back in August, a district court ruled that Florida’s gay marriage bans were unconstitutional, with the first marriage licenses issued on Jan. 6.
Florida is the 36th state to legalize gay marriage, a considerable increase from three years ago when it was legal in just two states. Keeping in mind this upward trend, junior Jodie Bappe is optimistic about what the Florida ruling means for the legal status of gay marriage in Missouri.
“I think [the ruling] is awesome,” Bappe said. “I don’t really think of Florida as a particularly liberal state, so I think it’s pretty awesome that it’s moving on to more moderate states and hopefully Missouri will legalize it soon.”
Bappe’s confidence reflects the recent developments regarding gay marriage in Missouri that followed a district  judge’s decision to overturn the state’s constitutional ban on gay marriage back in November 2014. Even with this change, same-sex marriage is legal in only a few areas in Missouri: St. Louis, St. Louis County and Jackson County.
Gregory Kirchofer, a chemistry teacher and the sponsor of the RBHS Gay-Straight Alliance, said the Florida ruling has not caused any significant progress with regards to state-wide legalization for gay marriage.
“The Missouri court decision was a narrow decision that only applied to a certain jurisdiction,” Kirchofer said. “It’s not that it’s not a good idea; it’s that Missouri’s only doing it where they have to do it.”
Still, support for gay marriage in Missouri seems to be on the uptick with Public Policy Polling from 2012 showing that 64 percent of Missourians believe that gay couples should be allowed to marry or form civil unions.
While freshman Elizabeth Zenner said she does not ardently oppose gay marriage, she certainly doesn’t support it.
“I’m not exactly for or against gay marriage,” Zenner said. “If I see a gay couple that is married walking down the street, I wouldn’t exactly scream ‘Yes, equality!’ but I wouldn’t be like, ‘Ew, no, no.’”
While Zenner said her own reasons for not wholly supporting gay marriage are private, she also mentioned that an individual’s religious beliefs can be a large factor in how they view gay marriage.
“[People] can be opposed to gay marriage for the sake of religion, as in the Bible, which says it’s not right, along with the Quran and Torah,” Zenner said. “There are, of course, religious people in the world that believe in what their book says.”
To Zenner the religious justifications for inequality are as legitimate as those in favor of marriage equality. In contrast to that line of thinking, Bappe said such arguments have always baffled her.
“People say, ‘God doesn’t like it….’ First of all, nobody’s supposed to judge but God, and secondly, not everyone believes in God,” Bappe said. “So why should somebody’s civil rights be taken away by parts of the Bible that you choose to believe in? The other Leviticus verses are just terrible, so I don’t understand how they can just pick and choose which ones are okay and still relevant.”
With such differing opinions dividing the United States, it is fair to wonder how the issue of gay marriage will play out in the upcoming 2016 election, especially given Florida’s historical status as a fiercely contested battleground state.  Kirchofer’s opinion is that the ruling will cause some politicians to reverse their views on gay marriage.
“Even some of the conservative candidates are switching to being in support of gay marriage because Republicans who want office aren’t going to get it if the rest of the country is like, ‘This isn’t OK’,” Kirchofer said. “I think we’ll see a shift in conservative people.”
With this political shift, Kirchofer sees the legalization of gay marriage being widespread in the next view years, a change that Kirchofer welcomes. He sees a similarity between the justifications of discrimination based on sexual orientation and the racial discrimination that prevented interracial marriage in the 1900s.
“There’s nothing people say about gay marriage that wasn’t said in 1960s about interracial marriage,” Kirchofer said. ‘It’s the exact same argument–it’s an argument based in ignorance.
By Jenna Liu
Art by Claire Simon