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Florida: Recognition of same-sex relationships and LGBT equality

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Civil unions, same-sex marriages
(SSM), and LGBT workplace equality:

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Quotations:

bullet"If marriage means everything, it means absolutely nothing." Dr. James C. Dobson, of Focus on the Family.

bullet"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.

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Recent history and current status:

Although the State of Florida does not recognize same-sex relationships. many counties and cities have a domestic partnership registry. 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 as they travel from their home to their place of work.

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Developments about equal rights for Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgender persons and Transsexuals (LGBTs)

  • 2008-NOV: On election day, the "Florida Marriage Protection Amendment" -- was overwhelmingly passed by voters on election day. It prohibits the state from authorizing same-sex marriages, or civil unions. However, domestic partnerships with limited benefits are allowed. 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 U.S. Third District Court of Appeal upheld the lower court ruling.

  • 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 many 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 to 2014-JAN: A new path emerges to achieve marriage equality: The movement towards making same-sex marriage available everywhere took a sudden change in direction between late 2013-DEC and late 2014-JAN. Prior to December, most of the states that achieved marriage equality were liberal states with a liberal governor and legislature, Equality was achieved via bills in the legislature and/or a citizen initiative. The mostly southern and mid-western red states did not look like promising candidates for this path.

    Just before Christmas in 2013, same-sex marriage came unexpectedly to a very conservative state -- Utah -- via a decision of a federal district court. Judge Shelby based his ruling on the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment. It requires states' marriage laws to give equal protection for all Americans -- both same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples. This ruling was rapidly followed by a similar decision by a federal District Court in Oklahoma. The following week, a lawsuit was filed by six same-sex couples in Florida state court seeking the freedom to marry. Florida, Oklahoma, and Utah are among the most conservative states in the U.S. Proceeding through federal or state courts might become the preferred future path to achieve marriage equality in Red states.

In addition to this new path towards marriage equality, arguments by religious and social conservatives in favor of marriage inequality went through a radical change. They studied the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Wilson v. United States -- the one that gutted the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). They extracted the concept from that ruling that each state had the power to define the criteria for marriage within its borders -- not the federal government as the federal DOMA bill had implemented. Conservatives 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 wanted. If a majority of voters approved an amendment to their state constitution to deny marriage access to Atheists, left-handed people, red-heads, and/or same-sex couples, then the law was valid. The concept that a state can create valid laws that violated the U.S. Constitution is a radical one. However, conservatives seem to be comfortable with it and are widely promoting it.

During 2014-JAN, six same-sex Florida couples applied for marriage licenses in Miami-Dade County and were refused. They filed a lawsuit in Florida state court asking that the amendment to the state constitution in 2008 be declared unconstitutional and that they be allowed to marry. They based their case on the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, as in the Utah and Oklahoma lawsuits. The case has been assigned to Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel, a long-term specialist in family law. There is strong opposition to this lawsuit by religious and social conservatives.

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Topics discussed in this section:

  • Part 1: Civil unions & same-sex marriages (SSM): History, current status, poll results; domestic partnership bill introduced to Senate.

  • Part 2: Bill & business coalition promoting workplace equality. Lawsuit to legalize SSM filed in state court.

  • Part 3: Lawsuit to legalize SSM (Cont'd). Reactions: pro and con.

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