This Florida State Representative is on a mission to protect LGBTQ marriage from a conservative Supreme Court majority.
Nearly five years since the US Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land, the state of Florida still has a ban on same-sex marriage in its statutes. Enter Florida State Rep. Michele Rayner, the only lesbian serving in the Florida legislature, and a woman with a mission: to strike that dated law from the books.
“We need to make allowances for folks to marry who they love, regardless of what that love looks like,” the St. Petersburg Democrat told The Advocate.
Married to Bianca Goolsby since 2017, Rayner is aware that even after a historic 2015 court ruling allowing same-sex unions in all 50 states, her marriage, as well as those of many other Floridians, is vulnerable to change from a conservative Supreme Court majority.
“I would argue it is a settled law, but there is always a possibility things could happen,” she said.
Especially after two of the three justices appointed by President Donald Trump replaced justices who voted in favor of marriage equality. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, for example, served on the board of private Christian schools that barred admission to children of same-sex parents, and made it plain that openly gay and lesbian teachers weren’t welcome in the classroom.
A Strong Ally
If Florida wants to recognize same-sex unions, she argues, it needs to allow for that in statute and not depend on a Supreme Court ruling. For this reason, on Monday Rayner filed a bill (HB 6017) that would establish equal rights for all couples by removing all provisions in Florida law related to marriages between same-sex couples.
But even though previous efforts to remove the law from the books have failed to even garner a vote in committee, Rayner believes this time she has a shot at protecting marriage for all LGBTQ Floridians. She has a strong ally in the Senate: Shevrin Jones, Florida’s first senator from the LGBTQ community. He was elected in November and fully supports Rayner’s efforts to pass the legislation this year.
“This is not only important to LGBTQ Floridians, but this is important to Florida’s families,” Jones said, adding that “it’s not the state’s job to play referee of what it believes a family should look like.”
For her part, Rayner is optimistic that she may even find allies on the other side of the aisle, especially after so many LGBTQ candidates won elections across the country. Higher visibility may be a factor in changing hearts and minds, she believes.
“There are Republicans who have folks in the LGBTQ community in their families and as their close friends,” Rayner concluded.