Florida is another one of those states that is really (at least) two states, culturally, economically, and politically speaking. Pretty much all we have in common with the folks down south is we both occupy this little appendage of the United States sticking into the Atlantic Ocean.
North Florida is the south. Like Georgia and Alabama are the south. South Florida is … well, what do you call a collection of deadbeats, con artists, bankers, affluent Cubans, penniless Haitians, exotic dancers, stick-up men, drug smugglers, fashionistas, impresarios, hustlers, tourists, retirees, vagabonds, and other assorted detritus imported from NY/NJ metro area?
It’s cheap to live here, the weather’s warm, nobody checks to see if you’ve got any outstanding warrants when you cross the state line, and there’s plenty of 24/7 action of any kind you can imagine once you get south of about Ocala. You’ve seen old episodes of Miami Vice. It’s not quite that wild anymore, but you can imagine what kind of people an environment – and a reputation – like that attracts.
On the other hand, North Florida is about as traditional and conservative as you can get, and lacking in all affectation or pretension. A young guy gets himself a little money up here and thinks about buying a new pick up truck. Down there, I don’t know what they dream of… BMWs? Mercedes? Cadillac Escalades? A new set of 22″ spinner wheels for the old ride?
Let’s just call a spade a spade. Except for Alachua and Leon counties, where the two oldest and best known universities are located, there’s nothing but a bunch of rednecks up here north of of a line through the middle of the state.
That includes the largest city in the area, Jacksonville. Jacksonville’s located in Duval county on the east coast, with a population of 1.4 million, and everyone of them is country fried.
Here’s how Duval and a few other North Florida counties reacted to the recent District Court decision recognizing the right to gay marriage in Florida..
Couples who wanted to skip the pomp and circumstance of a wedding and get married at the Duval, Clay or Baker county courthouses will no longer have that option in the new year.
If same-sex marriage is allowed, Duval Clerk of Courts Ronnie Fussell, Clay Clerk Tara Green and Baker Clerk Stacie Harvey will have no choice but to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. But to avoid performing ceremonies for them, these clerks have decided to end all courthouse weddings.
Meanwhile, south of that line, they’re loving it…
Funny thing. Rednecks don’t hate gay people. Maybe they aren’t as enthusiastic and effusive about homosexuality as the folks down south are, but nobody’s persecuted for it up here.
[Duval County Clerk] Fussell, a former Jacksonville City Council president, attends a Southern Baptist church and said he has considered how to handle the conflict between his personal views and professional duties that gay marriage created. He said he believes lesbians and gays should be defended and protected, but not allowed to marry.
“I believe marriage is between a man and a woman,” he said. “Personally it would go against my beliefs to perform a ceremony that is other than that.”
Baker Clerk Harvey said the decision is as much about logistics as it is personal conviction. The room where weddings are performed each year will now be used as space for people filling out paperwork related to domestic violence injunctions.
“I needed the space and our county we’re in the Bible Belt,” she said. “… If we’re made by the law to issue a gay marriage license (we will) do that, but we are not mandated to marry couples in our courthouse.”
There are and have been openly gay people up here for as long as I can remember. Everybody’s got a gay cousin or brother or neighbor. It’s not considered something that every boy should aspire to when he grows up, but nobody’s got to hide in the closet for fear of being fired or harassed.
That said there is that one trait that’s more or less integral to the redneck composite that creates a little dynamic tension here. Rednecks go to church, and not some vague Unitarian all-dogs-go-to-heaven church either.
Churches up here preach the Bible, and people believe it and act on it. Or at least they try to some of the time. And it’s hard for anybody who reads and believes the Bible to get real enthusiastic about homosexuality. Somehow it’s a lot easier to overlook all the proscriptions against fornication, probably because it’s a lot more common and can be rectified fairly easily by putting a ring on her finger.
But I think there’s more to it than a simple religious objection.
I think the redneck mind conceives of marriage fundamentally differently than the folks down south. Up here in North Florida getting married means something more than just shacking up with somebody on a semi-permanent basis so you can both go for the gusto and enjoy all the pleasures life has to offer.
Up here marriage is about buying your own double wide, putting it on five acres of land, and having some children.
How the hell you gonna do that if you’re gay?
I gotta admit, it don’t make a whole lot of sense to me either.
The only guy I can find talking about what this really means is the always trenchant Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. – the current president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Whatever your stance on Christianity or religion generally, I think you’ll find Dr. Mohler’s observations on this well worth your time to listen to.
Dr. Mohler understands that what we’re really doing here is redefining marriage. Since marriage is the foundation of the family, and the family, with all it’s faults and dysfunctions, is the foundation of society, that is not an inconsequential action.
As Dr. Mohler observes, this is redefinition is an ongoing process, and this particular step will impact our society in ways that the supporters of gay marriage do not currently anticipate.