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.
Arguments in the Case
Pam Bondi is the Attorney General for the state of Florida and is defending the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in the case. Bondi has argued that recognizing same-sex marriages from other states would be disruptive and that it would “impose significant public harm.” Specifically, Bondi has indicated that same-sex couples do not provide the same stability or enduring family units. Ironically, Bondi herself has been divorced two times and is currently on her third marriage.
LGBT rights groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Safeguarding American Values for Everyone (SAVE) have criticized Bondi for her illogical and false arguments regarding the link between same-sex marriage and unstable households for children. SAVE called her reasoning nothing but “discriminatory rhetoric” and not a valid legal argument. Instead, the couple’s attorney and rights activists have pointed out that many same-sex couples raise biological children of at least one of the spouses, so procreation is not a persuasive reason to prohibit same-sex marriage.
Bondi also argues that recognizing same-sex marriages from other states would cause problems for the state’s pension and health insurance programs. However, human rights groups counter that the harm to same-sex couples who are denied such benefits far outweighs the inconvenience to the state of adapting its systems.
Courts in numerous states are questioning existing bans and limits on same-sex marriage in recent months. Federal judges in Ohio and Kentucky recently ordered that out-of-state same-sex marriages should be recognized within the states, and a federal appeals court will be ruling on a number of gay marriage cases.
As the decisions involving same-sex marriage keep coming both in Florida and across the United States, the scope of family laws will likely change significantly, bringing numerous issues related to same-sex marriage into the courts.
Alan Burton is an experienced family law attorney who stays up to date on all changes in the law and knows how to handle a wide variety of family-related cases. If you have any type of family law concern, contact our office for help today.