Articles Posted in Same Sex Marriages

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After same-sex marriage became legal in Florida on January 6, 2015, it seemed to many to be only natural that same-sex couples would also have the right to dissolve their marriages in Florida, as well. However, the ability to grant a same-sex divorce was still up in the air on the trial court level, stemming from a case that was regularly in the news throughout last year.

In that case, Danielle Brandon-Thomas was trying to get a divorce from a marriage granted in Massachusetts and her wife Krista was trying to block the divorce. Though Krista wanted to stop the divorce for child custody reasons, she used the argument that because Florida law did not recognize gay marriage, it should not dissolve a gay marriage either. Attorney General Pam Bondi stepped in and argued for Krista, and the trial court denied the divorce request.

Now, however, the state appellate court has issued its decision that overturns the trial court decision for several reasons. Some of the reasons are as follows:

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On Monday, October 6, 2014, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) declined to hear a number of cases involving marriage equality. The Court gave no explanation for this decision, though its refusal to be involved in the same-sex marriage debate means that the decisions by the Courts of Appeals invalidating same-sex marriage bans will stand.

Several Courts of Appeals had ruled in favor of marriage equality, striking down any same-sex marriage bans on the basis that such bans violate the constitutional rights of gay couples. Specifically, courts reasoned that bans violated the rights of homosexual couples wishing to marry to equal protection of the laws. Many of the states within these judicial districts had appealed the decision to allow gay marriage, asking SCOTUS to review the rulings.

Though SCOTUS has refused to hear gay marriage cases at this point, this may change in the future if a Court of Appeals decides to uphold a state’s same-sex marriage ban. In that case, the high Court will likely have to sort out the conflicting decisions.

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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

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Marriage equality has been a hot topic in Florida ever since a same-sex couple requested that a Florida family court approve their agreed-upon divorce settlement. The couple had been legally and validly married in Massachusetts, however moved to Florida shortly thereafter. You must file for divorce in the state in which you are a resident, so they filed for divorce in Florida.

Florida, however, has a constitutional provision that only recognizes marriage as between a man and a woman. Because the state does not recognize that a same-sex marriage exists, the court decided there was no marriage to dissolve and therefore refused to grant them a divorce. They would be unable to file for divorce in Massachusetts unless one of them moved back there for at least one year, an option the couple states is impossible because of professional obligations.

The couple is appealing the decision and the Florida Supreme Court will examine the issue, as well as the validity of the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

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Same sex marriages are still not authorized under Florida law, but the national trend is heading in that direction.

There are now 17 states in this country which authorize same sex marriages.

Oregon has most recently overturned the previously existing ban on same sex marriages. Arkansas is one state struggling with this issue. A circuit Judge in Pulaski County, Arkansas recently over turned the ban on same sex marriages in Arkansas, and he was promptly overruled by the state Supreme Court. There is an ongoing battle in that state to put an end to the ban against same sex marriages.