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Florida: Recognition of same-sex relationships and LGBT equality

Part 3: Lawsuit to legalize SSM in Florida
state court (Cont'd). Reactions: pro and con

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This topic is a continuation from the previous essay

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2014-JAN-21: Six same-sex couples launch lawsuit in state court seeking marriage equality (Cont'd):

Some personal comments by plaintiffs:


Governor Rick Scott (R) supports the ban that prevents loving, committed same-sex couples to marry. Former state Senator Nan Rich (D) is challenging Scott in the 2014 elections. He has long supported SSM. Former Governor Charlie Crist who was a Republican at the time of the plebiscite, is now a Democrat and supports the repeal of the 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 NCLR referred to the increase in support for SSM over 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 2013-2014 decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court which declared Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act to be unconstitutional, and the more recent decisions by federal District Courts in Oklahoma and Utah which legalized SSM, 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 lawsuit by conservative Christian groups:

  • Florida Family Policy Council: It 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 who favor 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

  • Liberty Counsel: Founder and chairman, Mat Staver, and president, Anita Staver, announced their opposition to the lawsuit by six same-sex couples in Florida which challenges the year 2008 amendment to the state constitution. Mat Staver drafted the original amendment for the 2008 vote. 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 95% of adults are either heterosexual or bisexual. Some might suggest that the Stavers are assuming that the most common form of marriage is the only valid form.

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. The American Sociological Association filed an amicus brief in the Wilson v. United States lawsuit. That lawsuit 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. 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 "sanctity of marriage" he apparently means marriage restricted to opposite-sex couples.

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Many more developments are expected in the future

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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-JAN-23
Author: B.A. Robinson

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