Florida: Recognition of same-sex relationships,
same-sex marriage (SSM) and LGBT equality
Florida: Civil unions, same-sex marriages
(SSM), and LGBT workplace equality:
|"If marriage means everything, it means absolutely nothing." Dr. James C. Dobson, of Focus on the Family.|
|"A loving man and woman in a committed relationship can marry. Dogs, no matter what their relationship, are not
allowed to marry. How should society treat gays and lesbians in committed relationships? As dogs or as humans?"
A posting to an Internet mailing list; used by permission of the author.|
Recent history and current status:
Although the State of Florida does not yet recognize same-sex relationships, many of its counties and cities have a domestic partnership registry and support same-sex marriage in the state. These give certain benefits and protections to loving, committed same-sex couples. However, it has resulted in a patchwork of policies within the state so that a person might lose or gain rights even if they drove a short distance from their home to their place of work.
This type of conflict between state and cities is becoming a common phenomenon in conservative states. In Texas, for example, the state Legislature is controlled by Republicans whose party opposes marriage equality, while all but one of the cities is controlled by Democrats whose party supports marriage equality.
2008 to now: Timeline of the movement towards marriage equality for Lesbians, Gays, and Bisexuals (GLBs)
- 2008-NOV: On election day, the "Florida Marriage Protection Amendment" -- was overwhelmingly passed by voters on election day. Although it was advertised as a simple ban on same-sex marriage, it was actually a stealth amendment. It prohibits the state from authorizing same-sex marriages, or civil unions. However, the state is allowed to pass legislation to authorize domestic partnerships which have a limited set of benefits. Loving, committed same-sex couples have been recognized by the state only as "legal strangers" -- as roommates without protection to themselves and their children.
- 2008: Circuit court Judge Cindy S. Lederman ruled that a law banning gay and lesbian people from adopting children in Florida was unconstitutional.
- 2010: The Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal upheld the lower court ruling concerning adoption.
- 2011 to 2014: Support for SSM rose rapidly: A poll in mid-2011 shoed that only 33% of voters favored same-sex marriage. By 2014-JAN, a Public Policy Polling (PPP) poll found that a plurality of voters in favor of same-sex marriage: PPP wrote:
"47% favor it [compared] to 44% who are opposed. That represents a 14 point shift from October of 2011 when we found the state against it by an 11 point margin at 37/48. Among respondents under the age of 45 there's 58/34 support for gay marriage."
- 2013-FEB: Senator Eleanor Sobel (D) introduced SB 196 to the Senate Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee called the "Families First Act." It would have introduced a state-wide system of domestic partnerships that would give some of the benefits and protections of married to unmarried couples, both same-sex and opposite-sex. It failed to pass in the Committee and was abandoned.
2014-JAN: Florida Business Coalition for a Competitive Workforce formed by almost a dozen of Florida's largest employers including Disney and Wells Fargo. They are promoting a bill in the Florida Legislature to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations.
- 2013-DEC: A new path emerges to achieve marriage equality: The movement towards making same-sex marriage available everywhere took a sudden change in direction during 2013-DEC. Rather than introduce marriage equality bills in the Legislature, lawsuits in state or federal court were found to be more effective. They are typically based on the due process and equal protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment. In general, the clauses requires both federal and state governments to treat all citizens equally. In the case of marriage, states must allow both same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples to marry.
Meanwhile, arguments by religious and social conservatives in favor of retaining marriage inequality went through a radical change. They note that states, alone, have the power to define who is eligible to marry. They took this principle one step further and created the novel concept that a state could define marriage eligibility within their borders in any way that they wished. Even if the state definition violated the U.S. Constitution, it would still be valid. This is a radical concept that is rejected by almost all constitutional experts. More details.
- 2014-JAN: Six same-sex Florida couples applied for marriage licenses in Miami-Dade County. As everyone expected, they were refused. They filed a lawsuit in Florida state court asking that the amendment to the state constitution that was passed in a referendum during 2008-NOV be declared unconstitutional.
- Since 2014-JAN: Additional lawsuits were filed in federal District Courts.
Surprisingly, although Florida is a relatively conservative state, 2014 opinion polls show that a comfortable majority of its adults favor marriage equality. And so, a conflict exists in the state, where:
- Same-sex couples, civil rights groups, LGBT groups, liberal religious groups, the general public, businesses, and some cities favor marriage equality.
- According to rulings by many state courts, federal district courts, and -- later in the year -- by two U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal, the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses in the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution requires states to treat marriages of opposite-sex and same-sex couples equally.
- However, conservative faith groups, the state Legislature and the state executive strongly oppose equality.
- 2014-APR: A Quinnipiac poll found that Florida voters heavily supported marriage by same-sex couples. The poll found 56% in favor and 39% opposed. One indication of how far voters in Florida have changed is to look at the 2008 Constitutional amendment that banned same-sex marriage. That ban was passed 62% to 38%. This is a shift in the margin by 41 percentage points!
- 2014-AUG: By the end of the month, state courts in four counties and one U.S. District Court had all ruled in favor of marriage equality. All of the rulings were stayed so that no marriage could take place. The state appeals the federal court ruling to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The federal court stay was set to expire at midnight on 2015-JAN-05.
- 2014-OCT-26: Attorney General Pam Bondi attempted to appeal the county courts' rulings directly to the Florida Supreme Court. However, the Florida 3rd District Court of Appeals indicated that it will rule itself on the ban. The federal lawsuit is appealed to the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.
- 2014-DEC: The state asked the 11th Circuit Court to extend the stay. Their request was refused. The state may ask the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay.
Topics discussed in this section:
- Part 1: Civil unions & same-sex marriages (SSM): History. Current status. Poll results. Domestic
partnership bill introduced to Senate and fails to proceed.
- Part 2: Bill & business coalition promoting workplace
equality. Lawsuit Pareto v. Rubin filed in state court.
- Part 3: Lawsuit Pareto v. Rubin to legalize SSM (Cont'd). Reactions to the lawsuit: pro and con.
- Part 4: Two new lawsuits to legalize SSM filed -- in Florida federal court
- Part 5: Recent polling data on same-sex marriage in Florida. List of active lawsuits.
Attorney General fights marriage equality.
Briefs filed in favor of marriage equality
- Part 6: Hearing held in Florida state
court against 2008 same-sex marriage ban
- Part 7: Florida hearing (Cont'd).
- 2014-JUL & AUG:
- Part 8: Webmaster's comments. Three
Circuit Judges in three
counties rule in
of marriage equality
- Part 9: Three
rulings for marriage equality (Cont'd)
- Part 10: And then there were four...
County courts in Broward and Palm Beach Counties
to recognize an out-of-state
same-sex civil union and a marriage
- Part 11: 2014-AUG:
Review of Florida polling data on SSM. Federal District court rules in
favor of marriage
- Part 12: 2014-AUG: Reactions to the District Court ruling. Ruling mostly stayed. Case is appealed to U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. District Court stay made temporary.
- Part 13: 2014-DEC:
State cancels couple's drivers' licenses.
11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refuses to extend stay.
Newspaper suggests state should allow SSM. State requests a stay from the U.S. Supreme Court.
Speculation whether same-sex couples will
get marriage licenses starting 2015-JAN-06.
Copyright © 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2014-JAN-22
Latest update: 2014-DEC-05
Author: B.A. Robinson