Florida Same-Sex Marriage Update

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Same Sex Marriage & Divorce on Friday, August 22, 2014.

Big news in Florida’s divorce marriage war. A federal judge in Florida ruled that the same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional, and ordered Florida to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple.

Specifically, the order:

Requires the Secretary of the Florida Dept. of Management Services and the Florida Surgeon General to not enforce Florida provisions on same-sex marriage;

Requires the Florida Surgeon General to issue a corrected death certificate showing a female plaintiff was legally married to another woman;

Ordered the Clerk of Court of Washington County to issue a marriage license to two men;

But then stayed enforcement of the order to take effect until 91 days after stays have been denied or lifted.

The court found that sexual orientation was not a suspect classification, but marriage was a fundamental right. The court applied a strict scrutiny test, which requires a compelling state interest, and found Florida’s law could not justify itself.

When observers look back 50 years from now, the arguments supporting Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage, though just as sincerely held, will again seem an obvious pretext for discrimination. Observers who are not now of age will wonder just how those views could have been held.

-U.S District Judge Robert L. Hinkle

The judge stayed most of the effects of his ruling pending appeal. This means that nothing has changed as of yet. We are in a legal limbo in Florida. The judge added:

The institution of marriage survived when bans on interracial marriage were struck down, and the institution will survive when bans on same-sex marriage are struck down.

The case involved individuals who sued Florida to recognize their marriages or grant them marriage licenses Defendants include Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi. A spokespman for the Governor said:

The Governor respects the many views Floridians have on this issue. He believes in traditional marriage, consistent with the constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2008.

This is the first federal decision in Florida. When the stay is lifted, it will have statewide impact, and more families will be protected under Florida law. They may apply and receive health insurance, pension benefits and other state rights now limited to different sex partners.

Judge Hinkle’s order is available here.