A tense showdown played out on CNN earlier today as openly gay journalist Anderson Cooper grilled Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi about her past defense of Florida's ban on gay marriage.
Unlike Gov. Rick Scott, Bondi was quick to acknowledge that shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando was an attack on LGBT citizens. "Anyone who attacks our LGBT community, anyone who attacks anyone in our state, will be gone after to the fullest extent of the law," Bondi told reporters Sunday.
However, it was only about a year and a half ago when Bondi's office was busy defending the state's ban on gay marriage to the fullest extent of the law.
"I talked to a lot of gay and lesbian people here yesterday who are not fans of yours and who said that they thought you were being a hypocrite, that you for years have fought — you've basically gone after gay people, said that in court that gay people simply by fighting for marriage equality were trying to do harm to the people of Florida," Cooper said. "'To induce public harm,' I believe was the term you used in court. Do you really think you're a champion of the gay community?"
Bondi defended her actions by claiming she was just doing her job.
The full exchange can be watched below. It's important to note that Cooper isn't needling Bondi over merely defending the ban, but rather for the language her office used to defend it.
In court filings, Bondi claimed gay marriage would "impose significant public harm."
"Florida's marriage laws, then, have a close, direct, and rational relationship to society's legitimate interest in increasing the likelihood that children will be born to and raised by the mothers and fathers who produced them in stable and enduring family units," Bondi also argued in court documents.
In the showdown on CNN, Bondi tried to pass the buck by claiming the language was written by another attorney in her office.
"When I was sworn in as attorney general, I put my hand on the Bible and was sworn to uphold the constitution of the State of Florida," Bondi responded. "That's not a law. That was voted
It's also worth noting that several state attorneys general (all Democrats) ended up dropping their defense of their own state's gay marriage bans. There are no hard or fast rules or guidelines outlining how rigorously an attorney general should fight when a state's law is challenged in court.
Indeed, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal in 2014, Bondi's predecessor, Bill McCollum, explained the situation:
Bill McCollum, a Republican former Florida attorney general, says the issue is "a bit nuanced." While he believed he was required to defend a challenged law at trial, he chose not to appeal a ruling at times when the state lost.
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Bondi, however, chose to continue fighting to defend the gay marriage ban even after her office lost an initial trial in federal court. And we can argue all day over the exact responsibilities of state attorneys general, but the fact remains her office claimed gay marriage would cause "significant public harm."
In her defense, Bondi points out that "if you look at my website now, we have hands clasped together, all different colored rainbow hands, people."