Around the country Democrats lost big on election night and there was no exception in Florida where openly gay democrat Joe Saunders lost his state house seat and Republicans gained a super majority in the state house. And then of course there is the re-election of Rick Scott for governor and Pam Bondi for attorney general, both of whom continue to oppose marriage equality.
But what does this all mean for LGBT rights in Florida?
“In light of the outcome of this November's midterm election, the LGBT community will need to focus on a local strategy to advance pro-equality measure through city and county ordinances,” said Democrat activist Michael Rajner. “Little hope awaits our community in the upcoming sessions of a GOP-controlled US Congress and Florida State Legislature.”
Tony Lima, executive director of SAVE (formerly SAVE dade), agreed that any successes over the next years will be seen at the local level.
“We may have lost some battles, but the fight for full equality still continues — and in the wake of the results it's very clear that we must fight harder,” he said. “Our pro-equality wins at the local level bring hope for our community. I'm very much looking forward to working with them towards a more equal future.”
Even if Democrats had had a strong showing in Florida it probably would not have mattered in the battle over gay marriage since Attorney General Pam Bondi is refusing to give up the fight and her re-election was almost a foregone conclusion. It would have taken more than a strong showing for Democrat George Sheldon to defeat Bondi. He only received 42 percent of the vote, with Bondi taking 55 percent. In comparison Rick Scott received 48 percent of the vote while Charlie Crist received 47 percent. The race for attorney general was never close.
Now gay marriage is almost certain to remain in the hands of the judicial branch in Florida.
“Our last line of defense continues to be the judicial branch of government at the federal and state levels,” Rajner said. “However, in Florida, Governor Rick Scott will appoint 4 new Florida Supreme Court Justices within the next 4 years, and that should be a grave concern to LGBT and fair-minded Floridians.”
Gay Republicans, such as the Log Cabin Republicans, though are much more optimistic.
“We are very aware of the importance of marriage equality to Floridians and have always stood on the right side of history on this issue. Our state is in the process of becoming one of the next states to allow the freedom to marry for committed same-sex couples. Ironically, it is because we defend our national and state Constitution that we and the courts have the ability to bring marriage equality to the forefront and ensure that freedom prevails,” said President of Miami LCR Mimi Planas. “Log Cabin Republicans of Miami is confident that marriage equality will not be an issue in the near future. The courts will decide and Governor Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi will ensure that, moving forward, the Constitution will continue to be protected, as they are sworn to do, and marriage equality will be one of those rights they will be defending.”
Unlike Democrats, Planas is quite happy with the results in Florida.
"Although Log Cabin Republicans of Miami are happy with the results of the recent elections. We are not now nor will we ever be single-issue voters. We look at what is best for our country and our state as a whole,” she said. “For this particular election cycle, Governor Rick Scott was clearly the better choice for Florida as a whole. What is important to us is ensuring that the LGBT community as well as everyone in general, has the opportunity to find jobs, to grow their businesses (many gay businesses included), for our state to be debt-free, to allow people to flourish and not be burdened with higher taxes.”