At the Boca Raton office of family law attorney Alan R. Burton, we have been keeping a close eye on the new developments in the many cases taking place in Florida regarding same-sex marriage. Currently, our state constitution defines marriage as only between opposite sex partners and prohibits the state from recognizing same-sex marriages. This caused an issue for two women who were legally married in Massachusetts, moved to Florida for some time, and wished to end their marriage. Florida family courts denied the women a divorce because their marriage itself was not recognized, so there was no legal union in Florida to dissolve. The couple appealed their case.
Additionally, several same-sex couples who wish to marry in Florida have brought cases challenging the constitutionality of the gay marriage ban. As we have previously discussed on this blog, two county judges in Florida ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, stating that the ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, serves no important government interest, and is unnecessarily discriminatory against same-sex couples and their families. The Florida Attorney General, Pam Bondi, immediately announced her intentions to appeal these decisions on behalf of the state and its current constitution.
Florida Supreme Court may Hear First Same-sex Case
The couple wishing to divorce, Mariama Monique Changamire Shaw and Keiba Lynn Shaw, requested that their case skip the Court of Appeals and go directly to the Supreme Court for an ultimate decision. After taking a second look at the case, the Court of Appeals voted 10-3 to pass the case through the appellate level and instead requested that the Florida Supreme Court decide the issue. Skipping the Court of Appeals will significantly speed up the process, possibly by years.
The majority explained that the case should be rushed as it is a matter of “public importance” and a swift resolution is vital to the “proper administration of justice.” Specifically, the majority stated that with the increasing number of states allowing valid same-sex marriages, more and more people may seek out divorces in Florida if they have moved there.
One dissenting appeals judge stated that this case is not about whether gay marriage should be legal in Florida, but is instead about whether the amendment denies same-sex couples their right of access to the courts, which is a constitutional right. He stated that since there were fewer same-sex couples seeking divorce in Florida than seeking to get married, this case was not one of “public importance” and should not be rushed to the top of the state justice system. The majority stated the dissenters underestimated the effects a delay in deciding the case may have.
Advocacy groups hope that the Supreme Court will not only agree to hear this case, but will also expedite other same-sex marriage cases to the highest state court and decide the many cases together. We will keep you updated on any new developments by the Supreme Court on this important family law issue.
If you have any type of family law matter, please do not hesitate to contact the office of Alan R. Burton for legal assistance today.