Former Florida Governor Charlie Crist has penned an open letter calling on his successor, Rick Scott, not to defend the recently struck down state ban on same-sex marriage. In the letter, Crist points to his own actions after a district court of appeals struck down the state's gay and lesbian adoption ban.
In addition to his support for ending the adoption ban in 2006 and 2007, the former Republican governor announced his own support for same-sex marriage back in May of 2013. Crist addressed his "chance" to do right when he declined to defend the adoption ban, and he called on Scott do the same on marriage equality in his open letter, published by the Tampa Bay Times.
Last Thursday Federal District Judge Robert Hinkle gave you the same chance to speak out for what is right when, in a ruling that would apply statewide, he struck down Florida's ban on same sex marriage. By declaring the marriage ban finished you could discourage any future appeals and end the nightmare that loving same sex couples all across our state endure every single day, ending court battles that could drag on for months or years.
Crist has taken several progressive stands, including endorsing Barack Obama over Mitt Romney, and speaking against the GOP's exclusion of African-American and Hispanic voters. His remarks to the Republican Governor's Association concerning the exclusionary nature of the Republican Party were also printed by the Tampa Bay Times. His calls went unheeded.
Our success in this regard hinges on our party taking this message of new ideas and problem solving to all Americans. This party can no longer hope to reach Hispanics, African- Americans and other minority groups — we need to just do it. Embracing cultures and lifestyles will make us a better party and better leaders. This desire for inclusiveness is near and dear to my heart.
In his book The Party's Over: How the Extreme Right Hijacked the GOP and I Became a Democrat, Crist detailed his recognition of how his calls to include diversity in the Republican Party were repeatedly ignored and rebuffed. In December of 2012, Crist changed his party affiliation to Democrat and filed to take back his gubernatorial seat from Scott.
Although his support for diversity long predates his change of political party and his choice to run as a Democrat, it would be unwise to view this letter as independent of his political goals, and he makes that rather clear in the middle of his open letter.
Courts throughout Florida are endorsing the principle that government ought not deprive an entire class of citizens the right to marry simply because of whom they love. Florida deserves a governor who will stand up for all of the people of this state.
Regardless of the political motivations behind Crist's letter, he still makes a very valid point. As Governor, Rick Scott does have the power to let this ruling go into effect without appealing it or calling for an injunction. Scott can choose to do what is best for the state and for the LGBT+ Floridians who have been unable to access a fundamental basic right under Florida law. Florida can choose to get out of the marriage game entirely, but it cannot void the nature of equal protection, protection Crist says, which has been denied to individuals like Arlene Goldberg.
You have the power to end the suffering of people like Arlene Goldberg. Last March, Arlene lost her wife and partner of 47 years, Carol Goldwasser. At a moment of enormous and understandable grief, Arlene had to suffer the humiliation of not being listed as Carol's wife on the death certificate. Even worse, she lost her home because she was denied the social security benefits they had earned.
Who do you work for, Governor Scott? Florida, or the most conservative and extremist elements of your own party? A party that repeatedly ignored your progressive Republican predecessor to the point where he now feels he has to run against you to change the course of the state.
Your move, Governor.
Image via AP.