CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Tuesday grilled Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi over her past legal battles with same-sex couples over the state’s ban on gay marriage, two days after a mass shooting at an LGBT club in Orlando on Sunday.
In the wake of the attack, which left 49 dead and dozens wounded, Bondi had said her heart goes “out to all of the LGBT community, to those who have lost their lives and those that were injured.”
“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.
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) June 14, 2016
In an interview Tuesday afternoon, Cooper pressed Bondi to explain whether she saw herself as a champion for LGBT individuals despite a yearslong legal battle with couples seeking to overturn the state’s ban on gay marriage.
“You’ve said in court that gay people, simply by fighting for marriage equality, were trying to do harm to the people of Florida,” Cooper said. “Do you really think that you’re a champion of the gay community?”
He later added: “I have never seen you talk about gays and lesbians in a positive way until now.”
Bondi argued that she was obligated to defend the same-sex marriage ban since Florida voters used a ballot initiative to add it to the state constitution in 2008.
“When I was sworn in as attorney general, I put my hand on a Bible and was sworn to uphold the constitution of the state of Florida. That’s not a law. That was voted into our state constitution by the state of Florida,” Bondi said. “I’ve never said I don’t like gay people. That’s ridiculous.”
Bondi denied that she argued that same-sex marriage would do harm to Florida, saying that if there were a constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana, she would defend those laws.
Cooper continued to press Bondi over her attempt to uphold the state’s gay marriage ban, pointing out that if same-sex marriage hadn’t been legalized by the Supreme Court in 2015, many of the Orlando victims’ partners and family members would not have been able to visit them in the hospital.
“Had there been no same-sex marriage, you do realize that boyfriends and girlfriends of the dead wouldn’t be able to get information, and would not be able to visit in the hospital. Isn’t there a sick irony in that?” Cooper asked.
Bondi repeatedly denied that she was personally invested in the case, telling the CNN anchor that she “rushed the case to the Supreme Court” in order to seek finality.
“Moving forward, do you see yourself as being a vocal champion for gay and lesbian citizens in this state?” Cooper asked.
“They are citizens just like anyone else, of course,” Bondi said.
She added: “We’re human beings, and that’s what this is about.”
Though its appeal of a judge’s ruling on Florida’s gay-marriage ban was dropped after the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage, Bondi’s office has still drawn criticism from LGBT advocates. The attorney general balked at covering the legal fees for couples who challenged Florida’s ban, saying the state does not have to pay them since it voluntarily dropped its appeal.