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Florida: Recognition of same-sex marriages (SSMs)

Part 6: 2014-JUN-02: Hearing is held in Florida
state court against 2008 same-sex marriage ban

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This topic is a continuation from the previous essay

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wedding rings

2014-JUN-27: Charlie Christ filed a legal brief in the Pareto v. Rubin lawsuit in federal court:

Charlie Crist (D) was governor in 2008 when the voters passed the constitutional amendment that prohibited same-sex couples from marrying. At the time, he supported the ban, but has since evolved in his opinion.

He is now running again for governor and has filed a legal brief in support of marriage equality. He called the amendment "discriminatory" and believes that it should be declared unconstitutional. He wrote:

With the arc of history now, in fact, bending toward justice, this issue of marriage equality will almost certainly not even be an issue for the children and grandchildren of this state. But it is still the duty of those in the present to recognize that the legitimacy of government depends upon its willingness to fairly, transparently and equitably administer the law. That goal is frustrated by denying an entire class of citizens equality in the institution of marriage simply because of who they are and whom they love." 5

Nadine Smith, of Equality Florida -- a pro-marriage equality group that is also a plaintiff in Pareto -- said:

"As former governor and as someone who previously supported this measure, Charlie Crist's words matter a great deal. He has taken the same journey [that] the majority of Floridians have taken in realizing this ban serves no purpose but to disparage and discriminate against gay couples and our children. 5

The Mayors of Orlando and Miami Beach also filed amicus briefs in late June on behalf of their cities. They discussed how allowing same-sex couples to marry would reduce hardships for same-sex couples and would provide many benefits for citizens and employees to live in state that has attained marriage equality. 6

The hearing in Pareto is scheduled for JUL-02 in the state Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court in Miami.

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2014-JUL-02: Hearing before Judge Sarah Zabel in state court:

In Miami-Dade County, Circuit Court Judge Sarah Zabel of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court in Florida held a hearing in the Pareto v. Rubin case. This involves six unmarried same-sex couples who seek the freedom to marry in Florida. Lead Plaintiff, Catherina Pareto, and her partner Karla Arguello explain their situation:

1

According to the National Center for Lesbian Rights:

"Every court to consider these federal constitutional claims since last summer’s Supreme Court decision has ruled in favor of the freedom to marry for same-sex couples, including federal and state courts in Utah, Ohio, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kentucky, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin." 2

The plaintiffs in Pareto based their case on the due process and equal protection anti-discrimination clauses in the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. They followed the trend of these 21 other lawsuits in American courts since mid-2013, The clauses require the federal and state governments to treat citizens equally. Thus, since opposite-sex couples are able to marry in Florida, equality requires that same-sex couples be given the same right. As of JUL-02, all 21 judges have declared the various states' SSM bans to be unconstitutional. However, most of the rulings are currently stayed pending appeals to a higher court.

The Florida defendants based their case on the plebiscite taken on election day in 2008 when the public passed an amendment to the state constitution by a vote of 62% to 38%. Also, they noted that the Windsor v. United States ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013-JUN gives to the individual states the authority to define who can marry and who cannot in their state.

Attorney for the plaintiffs, Jeffrey Cohen, said:

"It's the right of a person to choose who they love and who they make their future with. We should not make anyone a second-class citizen." 3

Attorney Matt Staver of Liberty Council -- a conservative Christian legal defense group -- argued on behalf of a number of conservative groups who believe that marriage should be restricted in Florida to the union of one woman and one man. In his testimony, he was apparently referring to the results of the Regnerus Study at the University of Texas. Mark Regnerus, an evangelical Christian and an associate professor of sociology, headed the study. It appears to conclude that children thrive much better in families led by opposite-sex parents when compared to families led by same-sex couples. However, his study was based on a sample size of only two families, and thus cannot give any meaningful information on the child-rearing abilities of same-sex parents in general. The study was later repudiated by the University of Texas' Department of Sociology where Regnerus is employed. Its results contradict dozens of similar studies made on larger numbers of families by other research teams.

Staver said:

"The optimal environment [for raising children] is the opposite-sex mom and dad. Gender does matter."

He also said:

"Without opposite-sex marriage, there is no procreation." 3

The latter statement seems to ignore the countless couples made up of two lesbian or bisexual women who have used artificial insemination to procreate. It also overlooks the use of surrogate women who give birth to children for countless male-male couples. Finally, many same-sex couples add to their families by adopting children and give them a stable, loving environment in which to grow up.

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portrait of Eladio Armesto Dr. Eladio Jose Armesto, the Chairperson of the Florida Democracy League made the following curious statement after the hearing. He apparently believes that either:

  • The federal Constitution does not apply to same-sex marriage in Florida, or that

  • The state Constitution overrules the federal Constitution when the two conflict, as in the present case.

He stated that if Judge Zabel declares the state ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, then:

"Her judgment would be null and void. No one can rule against the [state] constitution. She would be doing no more or no less than the Ku Klux Klan did in the early part of the last century, where they hanged people for going out to vote. The people of Florida have voted. The judge is able to respect that vote, uphold the rule of law and uphold the [state] constitution. This is nothing more than a judicial lynching of the people of Florida. This is a mockery of justice, it’s a travesty. The judge should have thrown this lawsuit out because it violates her authority, her dignity, and her integrity as a member of the judiciary. ... I do not know what she is going to do. I do hope that she will uphold her oath of office, otherwise she will be in great trouble." 4

Armesto may be unaware that Judge Zabel's oath of office includes a statement to uphold both the state and federal Constitutions -- a task that appears impossible in this case.

The audio in the following video is difficult to decipher because of the crowd noise:

4

The crowd in the background appear to be chanting "Count my vote."

A protestor in the background held up a poster with a picture of Dr. Martin Luther King. It contained the caption:

"Judge Zabel: "Our voter rights are not negotiable! 50th Anniversary Civil Rights Act."

There is an interesting irony present when people use the image of Dr. King to promote inequality, and when they believe that the spirit of the Civil Rights Act justifies the prohibition of equal rights in marriage. Things seem to be getting really weird in Florida.

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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. "Why we're fighting for marriage," You Tube video, Equality Florida, at: https://www.youtube.com/
  2. "Florida Couples and Equality Florida Institute Urge Court to Strike Down State’s Ban on Marriage Equality," Press Release, National Center for Lesbian Rights, 2014-JUL-02, at: http://www.nclrights.org/
  3. Curt Anderson, "Sides square off on Fla. gay marriage ban," Miami Herald, 2014-JUL-02, at: http://www.miamiherald.com/
  4. "Chairman of FL Democracy League Compares Gays' Right to Marry to the KKK," You Tube, 2014-JUL-02, at: https://www.youtube.com/
  5. Kathleen McGrory, "Charlie Crist files legal brief in support of marriage equality," Tampa Bay News, 2014-JUN-27, at: http://www.tampabay.com/
  6. "Former Fla. governor Charlie Crist files brief in support of marriage equality," LGBTQ Nation, 2014-JUN-30, at: http://www.lgbtqnation.com/

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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-JUL-06
Latest update: 2014-JUL-06
Author: B.A. Robinson

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