We're a nation of laws, when convenient.
If you're a conservative, for instance, trying to spin your fear of Hispanics into something noble, then respect for the rule of law is a hugely convenient fig leaf to cover your shame. You can cry a river over the stern demands of legality as you explain, again, how you would love to relieve the 11 million immigrants who live in a twilight limbo, would leap to give them hope for a measure of dignity and protection, but gosh, they entered the country illegally, and so the law requires them to be punished forever..
It doesn't. But that's their story and they're sticking to it.
Except when the law cuts the other way -- say voters, and courts, and public officials, and basic human decency conspire to let gays out of their own second class cellar, at least when it comes to matrimony, suddenly the rule of law is a mere vapor, a frost of nothing, a hint to be accepted or rejected on an individual whim. Suddenly heroic government clerks and wedding cake bakers are applauded when they take it upon themselves to decide what laws to enforce and what laws to ignore. Individual morals matter, not the law.
That's their argument and they're sticking to it. I would suggest it's hard to have it both ways. Though I imagine that being a hypocrite with the self-awareness of a toaster must ease the process.
Robert L. Hinkle, federal judge in Florida, issued a ruling Thursday—and good for him, or his staff anyway, for working New Year's Day —that addresses the situation in Florida, a state whose ban on gay marriages was found unconstitutional, but where clerks were nevertheless balking at actually issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples. Hinkle's ruling, which you can read in full here, has a passage worth repeating:
"History records no shortage of instances where state officials defied federal court orders on issues of federal constitutional law," the judge writes. "Happily, there are many more instances when responsible officials followed the law, like it or not. Reasonable people can debate whether the ruling in this case was correct and who it binds. There should be no debate, however, on the question whether a clerk of courts may follow the ruling. ... the Constitution requires the Clerk to issue such licenses." The judge ordered clerks statewide to do their jobs.
The Florida ACLU called the order "a New Year's Day present from federal Judge Robert Hinkle."
It's a present for everyone—maybe this is a contributing factor to those clerks dragging their feet. Because any American citizen (or alien resident, for that matter) can get married in Florida. In fact, it's quicker for out-of-stater. In-state residents have a three-day waiting period and a funky training course they are encouraged to take. Out-of-staters can breeze right in without either. No residency requirement to get a marriage license in Florida, just a photo ID. The license will set you back $93.50. (If you want the full Florida marriage experience, go for the four-hour Florida Premarital Preparation Course designed to "increase your chances of creating a fulfilling, lasting marriage." I'm sure it's priceless and educational: traffic school meets Nathaniel West). The course costs $30, you can take it online, and they'll knock $32.50 off the cost of your license. Plus, if you're a Florida resident, taking the course entitles you to skip the three day waiting period to give residents a chance to decide if they really, really want to tie the knot.
The ceremony will set you back another $30. Plus they charge a buck for a copy of your marriage certificate, and you have to provide a stamped, self-addressed envelope to mail it to you.
Something to think about. The temperature in Miami was 84 degrees Thursday.