On Tuesday Jan. 21 2014, six Florida couples came together in order to challenge the same-sex marriage ban that Florida’s 2008 Marriage Protection Amendment placed over their lives and families living within the state. Currently, same-sex marriages are legally recognized by 17 states and the District of Columbia. Florida is not among them. Through the help of Equality Florida, a statewide organization that advocates for the LGBT community, these six couples filed a lawsuit on Tuesday to overturn Florida’s ban on same-sex marriages in the hopes of getting the same legal rights as those in heterosexual unions.
Florida’s Amendment that banned such unions was passed by 62% of voters. This is the election year for the governor of Florida. Current Governor Rick Scott is in support of the ban, while potential Democratic opponent and state Senator Nan Rich has been an avid supporter of same-sex marriage. Likewise, Charlie Crist, former Republican governor in 2008 who supported the ban, has now sided with Rich and wants the amendment repealed. Crist recently told the Miami Herald that a person does not want to be told who they can or cannot marry, especially when it comes to the person they love or have raised a family and with whom they have created a home and a wholesome lifestyle.
Four of the couples that are opposing the amendment through this lawsuit are currently raising children and two have grandchildren. Two plaintiffs in this case, Catherine Pareto and her partner Karla Arguello, claim the sunshine state as their beloved home, the place where they raise their children, and the state where they desire to have their same-sex marriage legally recognized. They, like other same-sex marriage couples, are challenging this ban that Florida has placed on their lives, because they desire the same rights as other married couples.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act means equal legal treatment for heterosexual and same-sex unions when it comes to things like federal taxes. This is being regulated by the Treasury department and Internal Revenue Service. Same-sex married couples who live in the 17 states that recognize their union or in the District of Columbia can now move around the country without it affecting their federal tax status. However, this does not give their legal marriage recognition otherwise in the states that still hold a ban on same-sex unions.
These six couples, like many same-sex couples across the United States, are asking for legal rights to accompany their union. The lawsuit they are bringing argues a violation of fundamental rights of equality that all persons are entitled to by the U.S. constitution. Legal professors like Jose Gabilondo of Florida’s International University, who is not involved with this lawsuit, told the Sun-Sentinel’s Anthony Man that it is unsure whether this lawsuit will be effective for these couples.
However, since this same-sex marriage ban has been challenged by six Florida couples, the scrutiny of the decision of the defendant, Dade County Court Clerk, Harvey Ruvin, to deny them the ability to apply for marriage licenses will increase. The couples challenging this ban believe the state is hindering these citizens’ constitutional rights that in turn discriminate against their sexual orientation. This, in turn, raises the public eye and eventually the court’s ears. Could this lawsuit see the state’s Supreme Court? Could this challenge to Florida’s same-sex marriage ban continue forward and see the U.S. Supreme Court? That is yet to be seen.
U.S. courts have previously overturned such bans in Utah in 2013, followed just weeks later in Oklahoma, for those states the answer was yes. However, this same-sex marriage ban is being challenged by Florida couples in pursuit of legal rights. Whether or not the state will follow the example of the other 17 states and the District of Columbia where same-sex marriage is yet to be decided.
By Sarah Widger