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

Part 3: Pareto v. Rubin lawsuit
filed in Florida state court (Cont'd).
Reactions to the lawsuit, pro and con.

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This topic is a continuation from the previous essay

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wedding rings2014-JAN-21: Lawsuit Pareto v. Rubin filed in State court (Cont'd):

Pareto is the first of a series of lawsuits filed in 2014 seeking marriage equality in Florida.

Some personal comments by plaintiffs:

 4

Plaintiffs include six couples who have been partners from 8 to 25 years. and the Equality Florida Institute. The institute is:

"... the state’s largest civil rights organization dedicated to securing full equality for Florida’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community." 10

Governor Rick Scott (R) supports the ban that prevents loving, committed same-sex couples to marry. He is probably experiencing a conflict over this decision, because when he took his oath of office, he promised to uphold both the state Constitution and the federal Constitution. Unfortunately, the oath does not indicate what he should do in the event that the two conflict:

  • The 2008 amendment to the state constitution clearly bans marriage for same-sex couples.

  • By the end of 2014-JUN, there have been over a dozen decision by state courts and federal District Courts, and by one U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal that have declared such state marriage bans to be unconstitutional because they violate the due process and equal protection clauses in the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Apparently the Governor has chosen to ignore the federal Constitution and follow the state Constitution. Some would suggest that this is an improper decision because the vast majority of constitutional experts regard the federal Constitution as the ultimate law of the land and as superior to each of the 50 state constitutions.

Former state Senator Nan Rich (D) is challenging Governor Scott in the 2014-NOV elections. He has long supported SSM.

Former Governor Charlie Crist who was a Republican at the time of the 2008 plebiscite, is now a Democrat and supports the repeal of the state constitutional amendment. He said:

"No one would want to be told they can’t marry the person they love. It’s an issue of fairness and I’m proud to support ... [the lawsuit]." 2

Shannon Minter of the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) referred to the increase in support for SSM in Florida during the interval 2008 to 2014, saying:

"What’s happened over that time period is a real awakening by most people in Florida to the humanity of lesbian and gay people and their families. Those families have been so much more visible and present, not just in the news but in people’s everyday lives. As people have gotten to know these couples and their children, the fear factor has diminished greatly. There’s just been in our whole country, including Florida, a kind of collective realization that these really are families pretty much like other families and [that] they need the same kinds of protections." 2

Referring to the 2013-JUN Windsor v. United States decision by the U.S. Supreme Court which declared Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act to be unconstitutional, and over a dozen more recent decisions by state courts and federal District Courts in over a dozen states that have found state SSM bans unconstitutional, Minter said:

"That really changes the landscape enormously and lays a very strong foundation for courts and other places to draw upon." 2

The lawsuit has been assigned to Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel, a long-term specialist in family law. 1

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2014-JAN: Opposition to the "Pareto" lawsuit by conservative Christian groups:

  • Florida Family Policy Council: This is a conservative Christian group that opposes marriage equality and which played a major role in promoting the 2008 constitutional amendment. John Stemberger is the Council's president and general counsel. He referred to the amendment to ban same-sex marriages, saying:

    "Sixty-two percent of Floridians have decisively spoken on this issue. Gay activists cannot win in the marketplace, so they have resorted to trying to find renegade courts who have little respect for the rule of law to create social change that would never happen through the people or their elected representatives."

Stemberger based his statement on the 2008 vote which overwhelmingly approved the amendment to the state Constitution. Stemberger may not be aware of the rapid increase in support for same-sex marriage among Florida voters over the past five years, culminating in a plurality of voters by the end of 2013 favoring SSM and marriage equality.

He also said that the lawsuit:

"... is nothing more than a publicity stunt. ... Filed in Miami, it represents ‘forum shopping’ in the most liberal legal venue in the state. However, we are confident that Florida's Attorney General Pam Bondi will provide a vigorous defense of Florida's long held law and in doing so will expose the radical views and overreaching legal positions set forth in today's lawsuit." 2

Stemburger may not be aware that all of the plaintiffs live in Maimi and the surrounding area. Thus filing the lawsuit in Maimi is a logical choice.

  • Liberty Counsel: Founder and chairman, Mat Staver, and president, Anita Staver, announced their opposition to the lawsuit. Mat Staver was responsible for drafting the original constitutional amendment in 2008. He said:

    "Liberty Counsel will help to defend the Florida Marriage Protection Amendment. This amendment affirms the natural created order of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Marriage between a man and a woman forms the foundation of society and provides the best environment in which to raise children. It is a fact -- children do best when raised by a mother and a father."

    Even if marriage becomes available to same-sex couples in all 50 states, the vast majority of marriages will always be between members of the opposite sex for the simple reason that about 90% of adults are either heterosexual or bisexual. Also, most bisexuals marry opposite-sex spouses because there is less chance of job loss, harassment by others, physical attacks, etc. Some might suggest that the Stavers are simply assuming that the most common form of marriage is the only valid form. An opposite-sex marriage involving a gay or lesbian is a most unnatural arrangement that almost always fails.

He has obviously extracted his belief about the raising of children from the Mark Regnerus "family structures study" in Texas. It has been criticized as a deeply flawed study by numerous professional groups. Yet it is regularly cited by religious and social conservatives because it is the only recent major study that support their beliefs against SSM. In the American Sociological Association's amicus brief filed in the Wilson v. United States lawsuit -- the lawsuit that resulted in Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) being declared unconstitutional -- the Association commented on the Regnerus study and the "fact" that children do best when raised by a mother and a father:

"If any conclusion can be reached from Regnerus’ study, it is that family stability is predictive of child well-being. As Regnerus himself notes, family structure (for instance whether the family has a single parent or two parents), matters significantly to child outcomes. As the social science consensus described in Part I demonstrates, the evidence regarding children raised by same-sex parents overwhelmingly indicates that children raised by such families fare just as well as children raised by opposite-sex parents, and that children raised by same-sex parents are likely to benefit from the enhanced stability the institution of marriage would provide to their parents and families. All told, the Regnerus study, even as revised, does not undermine the consensus that children raised by same-sex parents fare just as well as those raised by opposite-sex parents." 6,7,8

  • Florida Ethic and Religious Liberty Commission: President Bill Bunkley affirmed his support of the constitutional amendment that bans same-sex marriage. He said:

    "Nothing will hinder our efforts to continue to contend for biblical values in the public square as it relates to the sanctity of marriage." 5

    By the term "biblical values" he apparently refers to restricting marriages to opposite-sex couples. It may be worth noting that many religious liberals conclude that the Bible is silent on loving, committed same-sex relationships.

    Although the organization's name refers to "religious liberty," its major goal appears to be to prevent same-sex couples from having the liberty to marry, which many such couples regard as one of their most important religious liberties.

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Future activity:

A hearing has been scheduled for 2014-JUL-02 before Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel. The plaintiffs have asked for a summary judgement. This would have the judge decide the case on the basis of briefs filed by the plaintiffs, defendents and others without a full trial.

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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/
  10. "Case summary & history," National Center for Lesbian Rights, 2014-JAN-21, at: http://www.nclrights.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-30

Author: B.A. Robinson

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