So. Fla. activists, politicians react to gay marriage arguments
WILTON MANORS, Fla. (WSVN) -- Arguments on both sides of the Supreme Court case determining the fate of the California bill that banned same sex marriage in California have provoked passionate debate among prominent South Florida community leaders.
Protests and rallies in Washington, D.C., both for and against same-sex nuptials raged outside the Supreme Court building as justices decide whether LGBT Americans be allowed to marry under the U.S. Constitution.
Local activists and politicians weighed in on the contentious issue on Tuesday. Dr. Durrell Watkins, a pastor at Fort Lauderdale's Sunshine Cathedral, was closely watching media coverage of the oral arguments with Rev. Robert Griffin, his partner of 13 years. "What makes relationships sacred are not the genders involved," Watkins said.
At the moment, states decide whether gay unions are considered legal. LGBT couples can legally marry in nine states, including the nation's capital, but because of a federal law, same sex couples are not allowed federal death or insurance benefits or even hospital privileges.
Broward Republican Committee chair Tom Truex insisted that his party oppose equal rights for LGBT Americans. "The Republican Party is not anti-gay," the former Davie mayor said. "Our platform is surprisingly silent about the whole issue, and in general, Republicans believe the government should stay out of our lives."
LGBT activist Michael Rajner indicated GOP leaders have flip-flopped on the issue on various occasions. "The Republicans continue to vacillate whether this is something they should step into or not, and they need to show the courage," he said.
Supreme Court justices will hear two cases this week. Tuesday's case involves Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in California during the 2008 presidential elections. On Wednesday, they will hear arguments that might decide the fate of the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal legislation defining marriage as a heterosexual union that President Bill Clinton signed into law in 1996.
Christian Family Coalition Executive Director Anthony Verdugo insists most Americans still favor the traditional concept of marriage. "We agree with the majority of Americans who believe and have always believed that marriage is a union of one man and one woman," he said.
Watkins said the validity of gay and lesbian couples should not depend on geographical location. "Whether it's from the top down or whether it's state by state, I don't think that civil liberties and human rights can be parceled out," he said. "I don't think that you can be a free and whole person in Rhode Island and not in Oklahoma."
Recent polls suggest support for same sex marriage is increasing. "Eventually, 'all' has to mean all," Watkins said. "We wear our commitment rings on our right hands instead of on the left until marriage equality is a reality for the entire country, and then we're switching them to our left hands. We really do have hope that this will happen in our lifetimes."
People at Wilton Manors' Pride Center at Equality Park were ecstatic about the media coverage the arguments have been receiving, but they worry that Supreme Court justices might dismiss both cases. A ruling is expected in June.
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