On this blog, we have been closely following the numerous cases making their way through Florida courts that pose challenges to our state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. This topic is important to us because instituting marriage equality in Florida will have a substantial effect on the family courts. Last we checked in, several couples were awaiting the decisions of Judge Sarah Zabel in Miami-Dade County and of Judge Luis M. Garcia in Monroe County. Both judges have since ruled in favor of marriage equality, stating the state constitutional amendment was unconstitutional.
Both Judge Garcia and Judge Zabel ordered the Clerk of Courts in their respective counties to grant marriage licenses for same-sex couples. Both judges reasoned that the marriage ban violated the Equal Protection clause of the United States Constitution. Specifically, Judge Zabel stated the following:
· The ban serves no important governmental interest;
· The ban treats same-sex like second-class citizens;
· The law as it stands prohibits certain citizens from participating in a fundamental societal institution–marriage; and
· The ban only hurts same-sex couples and their families, discriminates against them, and deprives them of equal dignity.
In addition, Judge Zabel compared this issue to the issue of interracial marriage, which reached the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) back in 1967. At that time, SCOTUS outlawed any bans on interracial marriage based on equal protection, and Judge Zabel does not see same-sex marriage bans as any different and stated the ban violates the “principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment” as well as failing to provide all citizens with due process of the laws.
Challenges Still Ahead
While those in favor of marriage equality were cheering about these decisions, the rulings were only the first step in having the Florida constitutional ban on same-sex marriage overturned. The Attorney General of Florida, Pam Bondi, has made it clear that she will work to fight against marriage equality and will defend the state constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. She has already filed notice with the courts of her intention to appeal Judge Garcia’s ruling, which triggers a stay that prevents clerks from issuing same-sex marriage licenses in Monroe County. Bondi is expected to file notice in Miami-Dade County, as well.
Laws Are Ever-Changing
Family laws in the state of Florida can be challenged and potentially changed at any time. Because these challenges may arise in other counties or parts of the state, lawyers may not be readily aware of the changes and how they may apply to their cases. Boca Raton attorney Alan Burton knows how important it is to stay apprised of all changes and updates in the law that affect any type of family-related matter, such as marriage, divorce, child custody, and more. Mr. Burton will make sure that you receive the best outcome possible under the law in your particular case.
If you have any concerns regarding any type of family law matter, please do not hesitate to contact our office for assistance today.