Thursday, December 14, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: Embrace marriage equality

When President Barack Obama became the first president to endorse same-sex marriage, he was reflecting evolving American attitudes on the issue. As with other historic civil rights gains for racial minorities and women, Americans eventually embrace fairness. This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in two landmark same-sex marriage cases. The justices should declare that the U.S. Constitution's equal protection guarantees extend to the right of gay and lesbian couples to marry. That would be a just conclusion and reflect where the nation is headed.

Hollingsworth vs. Perry, to be heard Tuesday, challenges Proposition 8. That referendum passed in California in 2008 and repealed the right of same-sex couples to marry that had been granted by the state's courts. Wednesday's case, United States vs. Windsor, challenges the federal Defense of Marriage Act. That is the 1996 law that bars the federal government from recognizing legal same-sex marriages. The law denies gay and lesbian spouses a range of federal benefits, including Social Security and tax breaks reserved for married couples. It also tells the nine states plus the District of Columbia that have legalized gay marriage that their marriage laws won't be recognized at the federal level.

While the high court should not base its judgment on popular sentiment, it cannot be blind when public views rapidly change in favor of civil rights. A decade ago only 36 percent of Americans supported legalizing gay marriage. Now, 58 percent support gay marriage, including 81 percent of adults under age 30, according to the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll. Historically, the high court has been willing to help catalyze social change when society was already moving in that direction. At one time as many as 41 states prohibited interracial marriage. In 1967, when the Supreme Court ruled those laws unconstitutional, it nullified the 16 laws that remained.

The best result would be for the court to recognize that the Constitution's guarantees of equal protection grant same-sex couples the same rights of marriage that heterosexual couples enjoy. That would alter the law of marriage for 41 states, including Florida. With an ideologically divided court and Justice Anthony Kennedy as the sole moderate, the high court is likely to stop short of such clarity. There are numerous alternative grounds to set aside of both Proposition 8 and DOMA.

The Obama administration suggests in an amicus brief in the Proposition 8 case that once a state has granted same-sex couples all or nearly all the benefits of marriage, the only basis for refusing to allow gay couples to marry is to segregate them and treat them differently due to their sexual orientation. Putting up legal barriers simply to discriminate against gays and lesbians isn't a legitimate basis for lawmaking. If the court accepted this view, only nine states would be impacted.

DOMA could be set aside on federalism grounds on the theory that the federal law interferes with the traditional role of states in defining marriage.

There is momentum on the side of expanding marriage rights. An array of mainstream interests from major corporations to high-profile Republicans have weighed in on behalf of same-sex couples. In the end, only nine justices' opinions will matter. They should embrace equality and fairness.

Comments
Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Timing is everything, and Sen. Bill Nelson seized the right moment this week to call on his colleagues to pass legislation he filed earlier this year that would block the Trump administration from opening additional areas to offshore drilling. With t...
Published: 12/13/17

Another voice: Alabama picks an honorable man

THANK YOU, Alabama.In Tuesdayís special election, the state by a narrow margin chose to spare the nation the indignity of seating an accused child molester in the U.S. Senate. Though the stain of electing Republican Roy Moore would have sullied Alaba...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/13/17
Editorial: Tax cuts arenít worth harm to Tampa Bay

Editorial: Tax cuts arenít worth harm to Tampa Bay

As congressional negotiators hammer out the details on an enormous, unnecessary tax cut, the potential negative impact on Tampa Bay and Florida is becoming clearer. The harmful consequences stretch far beyond adding more than $1.4 trillion to the fed...
Published: 12/12/17

Another voice: Privacy in the internet age

How much information about you is on your cellphone? Likely the most intimate details of your life: photographs, internet searches, text and email conversations with friends and colleagues. And though you might not know it, your phone is constantly c...
Published: 12/10/17
Updated: 12/11/17
Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Confronted with documentation of sanctioned brutality and sexual abuse in Floridaís juvenile detention centers, the reaction from Gov. Rick Scottís administration was defensive and obtuse. So itís welcome news that Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine...
Published: 12/08/17
Updated: 12/11/17

Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over stateís rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week wonít make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, itís obvious that Jeff Vinikís plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

It is dangerous and illegal to text while driving in Florida, and police should be able to pull over and ticket those lawbreakers without witnessing another violation first. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has lent his powerful voice to legislation th...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Editorial: Outsourcing common sense on St. Petersburg Pier naming rights

St. Petersburg officials predict that selling the naming rights to parts of the new Pier could generate $100,000 in annual revenue. But first the city wants to pay a consultant to tell it how and to whom to sell the rights. Why do city officials need...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17