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Florida Awaits Another Marriage Ruling

Floridians took another step toward challenging the definition of marriage under the state constitution. Due to a constitutional amendment in 2008, the constitution currently states that marriage is defined as between one woman and one man, and that the Florida state government will not recognize marriages between two people of the same sex “for any purpose.” This amendment has not only barred same-sex couples from legally marrying in Florida, but also has prohibited same-sex couples who were lawfully married in other states from obtaining benefits or getting divorced in Florida.
Several lawsuits have been filed across the state, challenging Florida’s gay marriage ban, both in an attempt to marry and to get a divorce. A hearing was held on July 2, 2014 in one of the most recent cases to be heard, Pareto v. Ruvin.

Specifics of the Case

Pareto v. Ruvin is a lawsuit filed by the Equality Florida Institute and the National Center for Lesbian Rights on behalf of six same-sex couples residing in Florida. The plaintiffs filed a motion requesting the court to rule that the same-sex marriage ban violates citizens’ rights to equal protection under the laws, and is therefore unconstitutional. Judge Sarah Zabel heard oral arguments from both sides at the July 2 hearing.
The defense argued that Floridians voted by 62 percent to amend the constitution, and that vote should be respected. The attorney for the plaintiffs countered by stating the vote is simply using a majority for oppression of a minority. He also pointed out that there are thousands of state laws from which same-sex couples may never benefit if their marriages are not recognized in the state. Such laws involve inheritances, health care, taxes, and much more. The plaintiffs’ side also stated that this case is not about gay marriage, but instead about equality for all people.
The trend across the United States has been in favor of same-sex marriage. To date, 19 states and the District of Columbia recognize marriage for all couples. Additionally, lower courts in the following states have ruled a gay marriage ban unconstitutional and are in the appeals process: Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, and Virginia. Depending on Judge Zabel’s ruling, Florida could be the next state to join the trend toward marriage equality. The ruling is not expected for weeks or months, and even if Judge Zabel rules in favor of the plaintiffs, the decision will still have to get through the Third District Court of Appeals, the Florida Supreme Court, and even possibly the Supreme Court of the United States.

A Boca Raton Family Lawyer Can Help

If Florida courts do, in fact, overturn the ban on same-sex marriage, the decision will affect the application of countless laws in the state. Same-sex couples will likely have many questions and require assistance regarding issues such as marriage, children, benefits, and divorce. Experienced Boca Raton family law attorney Alan Burton stays aware of all changes in the law and can help anyone facing family issues. Whether you have a case or simply a question, do not hesitate to contact our office today.