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Florida: Recognition of same-sex relationships,
same-sex marriage (SSM) and LGBT equality

Part 2:
Bill & coalition promoting workplace
equality. Pro-SSM lawsuit Pareto v.
Rubin
is filed in state court.

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This topic is a continuation from the previous essay

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LGBT symbol 2014-JAN-13: Florida Business Coalition for a Competitive Workforce issued a statement about workplace equality:

Almost a dozen of Florida's largest employers including Disney and Wells Fargo have joined the Florida Business Coalition for a Competitive Workforce. The Coalition is promoting a bill in the Florida Legislature to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, in employment, housing and public accommodations.

They issued a statement saying:

“The Competitive Workforce Act (HB 239/SB 348) would modernize state law to include anti-discrimination protection based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.    

The legislation, which is sponsored in the House by Representatives Joe Saunders (D-Orlando) and Holly Raschein (R-Key Largo) and by Senator Joe Abruzzo (D-Wellington) in the Senate, aims to grow the economy by attracting and retaining the best workers to Florida with the promise of equal opportunity employment.  

Since recruiting and retaining talent is critical to our long-term business success,  Coalition members understand that Florida employers must attract qualified and diverse applicants who reflect the diverse population of the state. The link between strong anti-discrimination laws and the ability to draw the best and the brightest is the reason that 84% of the nation’s largest companies have adopted comprehensive anti-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation and gender identity.*  

The Coalition believes that the Florida Competitive Workforce Act will make Florida more competitive in the national and global marketplace in much the same way companies have benefited from adopting anti-discrimination policies. The Coalition looks forward to working with other companies, business advocates and legislative leadership to support the Florida Competitive Workforce Act. 9

Nadine Smith, CEO of Equality Florida, issued a statement saying:

"We are proud to see so many of Florida’s largest employers taking a stand to encourage the legislature to pass the Competitive Workforce Act. Increasingly we hear from companies that are contemplating relocation or expansion, and they want reassurance that their diverse work force will be able to live in a state where they and their families will be treated fairly. The corporate culture understands that top talent looks not only at a company’s internal policies, but also at the community they will call home." 9

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2014-JAN-21: Six same-sex couples launch lawsuit Pareto v. Rubin in state court seeking marriage equality:

We will refer to this lawsuit simply as "Pareto" to differentiate it from Florida lawsuits filled later in federal court.

Six couples from the Miami area and a lawyer converged on the Miami-Dade County Clerk's office. They applied for marriage licenses, and were politely refused. Attorney Elizabeth F. Schwartz said:

"The clerk was very sweet about it. She placed a call to make sure, saying, ‘Did something change because I don’t think we can do this.'

I said, ‘Thank you for being diligent. It hasn’t yet, but hopefully this will be the first step in making that change happen."1

The six couples and the Equality Florida Institute then filed a lawsuit in Miami-Dade state Circuit Court seeking the freedom to marry. Their case is based upon the equal protection and due process clauses in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. These clauses require both the federal government and state governments to treat people -- and thus couples -- equally. This is the same basis as has produced successful rulings in federal District Courts in both Utah and Oklahoma during the few weeks prior to this case being filed. It was also the basis on which many other same-sex marriage lawsuits have been filed in other states since. It was also the basis on which the U.S. Supreme Court decided the famous 1967 case Loving v. Virginia-- their ruling that made interracial marriages legal in 16 contiguous states, including Florida, where they had been banned.

The plaintiff couples are:

  • Lead plaintiff Catherina Pareto & Karla Arguello;
  • Dr. Juan Carlos Rodriguez & David Price;
  • Vanessa & Melanie Alenier;
  • Todd & Jeff Delmay;
  • Summer Greene & Pamela Faerber; and
  • Don Price Johnston & Jorge Isaias Diaz.

Four of the six couples are raising children. One has an adult child and two grandchildren. The couples were selected from among more than 1,000 couples who had volunteered to be part of the lawsuit! Equality Florida Institute is also a plaintiff. The plaintiffs are supported by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), and by lawyers from the law firm, Carlton Fields Jorden Burt. Harvey Rubin is named as defendant, not as an individual, but rather in his official capacity as Miami-Dade County Clerk.

The plaintiffs allege that:

"Florida’s categorical exclusion of all same-sex couples from marriage deny same-sex couples, including the plaintiff couples, and their families the fundamental rights, dignity, and equality guaranteed to all persons by the [due process and equal protection clauses in the 14th Amendment to the] United States Constitution." 2

Lead plaintiff Catherina Pareto said:

"Florida is our home, it is where we are raising our child, and where we want to get married. Karla and I wish for our family the same things that other families want. We want to build our lives together, provide a safe and caring home for our child, and share in the responsibilities and protections of marriage." 3

She also said:

"We stand before you today for one simple reason. We want to marry each other here in our state, but we can’t because the freedom to marry isn’t available to us. Carla and I share a beautiful life together. We have an amazing son together. We’ve built a successful business together. We share our finances together. We go to church together. We serve our community together. Our respective families have fully integrated. But in the eyes of the law, we are legal strangers." 2

"Legal strangers" is a legal concept which refuses to recognize same-sex couples' relationships and treats them as simple roommates.

Plaintiff Summer Greene said:

“As Pam and I get older, it worries me that we do not have the legal protections that marriage provides in case one of us becomes ill or dies. Getting married in Florida will provide us with those important protections and it will allow us to celebrate that joyous occasion with all our family and friends, just as other couples can."

The plaintiffs always have the option of going to another state where SSMs are allowed, being married and return to Florida as a married couple. But because of the 2008 Amendment to the state Constitution, their marriage would not be recognized in Florida.

Nadine Smith, the Chief Executive Officer of Equality Florida Institute said:

"Today the majority of Floridians stand with us as we take this historic step toward marriage equality in the Sunshine State. These couples have been embraced by their families and communities. But every day, Florida laws are denying them the protections and dignity that every family deserves. These harmful laws are outdated and out of step. It is time for all families in our state to have full equality under the law." 3

Her first statement appears to be incorrect, as only a plurality of Florida voters support same-sex marriage. However, by the time that the case is decided, appealed to a higher court and decided again, the plurality will probably have become a majority. 

She also said:

"We are proud to stand here on this historic day. We are proud to stand here with these brave couples who have stepped up to protect their families and challenge the law in our state. For everyone who stands here today, there are thousands whose families are denied the dignity and protections that marriage provides.

We stand here for those who have applied for marriage licenses and face the humiliation of being denied. We stand here for the children of couples who want to know why their parents aren’t permitted to get married the way their classmates’ parents are." 2

And said:

"Anyone who gives this issue a fair hearing and applies the law can only come to one conclusion: It's wrong to deny same-sex couples and our children the protections that only marriage can provide. ... We’ve had hundreds of couples write  to tell their stories. You realize how much hope people have as this case moves through the [Florida] court system." 1

The plaintiffs' attorney Cristina Alonso said:

"Courts throughout the country are recognizing that this is an issue of basic dignity and fundamental fairness. We look forward to the day when our clients can celebrate and protect their relationships by getting married in their home state in front of family and friends." 3

Attorney Elizabeth F. Schwartz said:

"As someone who has spent nearly two decades helping same-sex couples and their families achieve some measure of legal protection under Florida law, which gives us very few tools, I know too well just how difficult the process can be and how much vulnerability these couples face. The protections we are able to cobble together without marriage pale in comparison to the comprehensive security provided by marriage recognized not just by the federal government but by the State of Florida."

Shannon Minter, NCLR Legal Director, said:

"The law should support families, not make it harder for committed couples to support one another and protect their children. Barring same-sex couples from marriage causes great harm to their families and children while helping no one." 3

Minter's statement is not accurate. A sizeable minority of Florida adults are opposed to marriages by same-sex couples and take great comfort in knowing that such couples are not allowed to marry in Florida,. Further, such couples' marriages in other states are not recognized in Florida. Many Florida adults look upon SSMs as a threat to historical marriages which are limited to one woman and one man.

Since same-sex Florida couples cannot marry, and since the marriages of same-sex couples who have "tied the knot" in other states are not recognized, both groups are denied a few hundred state benefits and protections offered to married opposite-sex couples in Florida. Also, they are denied access to the 1,138 federal marriage protections and benefits.

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This topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above menu. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Steve Rothaus, "Gay marriage case assigned to Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel, a veteran family law specialist," Miami Herald, 2014-JAN, at: http://miamiherald.typepad.com/
  2. Steve Rothaus, "Six South Florida gay couples sue in Miami-Dade circuit court for right to marry," Miami Herald, 2014-JAN-21, at: http://www.miamiherald.com/
  3. "Six Same-sex Couples Seek Freedom to Marry in FL," The Rainbow times, 2014-JAN-21, at: http://www.therainbowtimesmass.com/
  4. "Same-sex couples file lawsuit seeking freedom to marry," Miami Herald, 2014-JAN, at: https://www.youtube.com/
  5. Joni B. Hannigan, "Liberty Counsel pledges to defend Florida’s Marriage Protection Amendment," Florida Baptist Witness, 2014-JAN-21, at: http://www.gofbw.com/
  6. Peter Montgomery, "Sociologists slam Regnerus study in amicus brief," Religion Dispatches, 2013-MAR-01, at: http://www.religiondispatches.org/
  7. "Research Shows Parents’ Sexual Orientation Has No Bearing on Children’s Well-Being," American Sociological Association, 2013-FEB-28, at: http://www.asanet.org/
  8. Carmine D. Boccuzzi, Jr., "Amicus brief, United States v. Windsor," American Sociological Association, 2013-FEB-28, at: http://www.asanet.org/
  9. "Top Florida employers urge Legislature to pass Florida Competitive Workforce Act," Equality Florida, 2014-JAN-13, at: http://www.eqfl.org/

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Site navigation: Home > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > Menu > Florida > here

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Copyright © 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2014-JAN-22
Latest update: 2014-JUN-07
Author: B.A. Robinson

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