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Florida: Recognition of same-sex marriages (SSMs)

Part 8: 2014-JUL/AUG: Webmaster's comments.
Three Circuit Judges in three Florida counties
rule in favor of marriage equality:

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This topic is a continuation from the previous essay

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wedding rings

Webmaster's comment [Bias alert]

The position of the plaintiffs appears strong, and that of the defendants relatively weak, for a number of reasons:

  • Essentially all constitutional specialists believe that in the case of a conflict between the federal and a state Constitution, the federal Constitution is considered superior. So the two clauses in the 14th Amendment trump the Amendment to the state constitution that bans SSMs.

  • Polling data indicates that if the referendum were repeated today, voters would turn it down by not giving it the necessary 60% support to pass. It is very likely that it would not even obtain a 50% majority support.

  • All 21 rulings in state and federal courts on SSM during the previous 12 months have resulted in rulings legalizing SSM. Judge Zabel, and other state Circuit Court judges were anticipated by many commentators to rule similarly. During the second half of 2014-JUL, all three did rule as expected.

Throughout the more than 70 active lawsuits over marriage by same-sex couples that have been filed since mid-2013, many liberals and conservatives have taken opposite stands regarding the ban on such marriages:

  • Social, political, and legal liberals tend to look upon marriage by same-sex couples as a human/civil rights issue. They view the due process and equal protection clauses in the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution as requiring federal and state governments to treat same-sex and opposite-sex couples equally. Since the latter are allowed to marry, the former must be as well.

  • Many social, political, and legal conservatives tend to look upon the opinion of the majority of voters as expressed during a referendum on a state constitutional amendment to be the highest law of the land. The people of Florida voted to ban same-sex marriage in 2008. This requires the state to treat same-sex and opposite-sex couples differently and to prohibit the former from marrying.

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Southern area of Florida 4

2014-JUL: During the second half of the month, three state judges issue rulings concerning marriages by same-sex couples:

As a result of the referendum in 2008, the Florida Constitution was changed to include a clause which defines marriage as:

Article 1, Section 27: "... the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife, [and] no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof, shall be valid or recognized." 2

This amendment makes it impossible for a same-sex couple to marry in Florida, or to be legally married out-of-state and have their marriage recognized in Florida.

The amendment was backed up by Florida Statute 741.04(1), which requires a couple applying for a marriage license to be of opposite sexes, and 741.212 which requires the state to not recognize any existing same-sex marriage solemnized out-of-state.

All three judges in the three southernmost counties in Florida found the state ban on marriage for same-sex couples to be unconstitutional. They all based their decision on the usual grounds that the ban violated the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution: 1

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2014-JUL-17: Ruling in Monroe County:

This county is in the extreme south west area of Florida and includes the Florida Keys. The latter are are a series of islands spread over more than 100 miles.

On APR-01, Aaron Huntsmand and William Lee Jones had gone through the usual ritual of visiting the clerks office in Key West, requesting a marriage license, and being refused. They filed their lawsuit Huntsman v. Heavilin on 2013-APR-02.

The couple had been together for over a decade. They said:

" I really feel Monroe County — Key West — if it's going to be done anywhere, it’s going to be done here. We have a history. It's a little more open. We’re going to change it here." 2

A copy of their complaint is online. 2 It alleges that:

"... Florida's categorical exclusion of all same-sex couples from marriage deny same-sex couples, including Plaintiffs and their families, the fundamental rights, dignities, and equalities guaranteed to all persons by the United States Constitution."

Their complaint quotes a ruling by the U.S. District Court judge in the Southern Division of Ohio who wrote in Obergefell v. Wymyslo:

"While states do have a legitimate interest in regulating and promoting marriage, the fundamental right to marry belongs to the individual. ... The restrictions imposed on marriage must nonetheless comply with the United States Constitution."

The defendant is Monroe County Clerk Amy Heavilin.

Ron Saunders, general counsel for the clerk’s office, said that the staff in the clerk's office had to obey the existing law. He said that:"

"Until it changes or is found unconstitutional, it is the law. No clerk in the state can do anything until a judge rules otherwise or the law changes."

Plaintiff Aaron Huntsmand explained to the pro-equality group Freedom to Marry:

"We're just like every other couple. We share the same banking account, we share the same values, the same bills, the same insurance. We want to have a home, have children, and build a family together. But laws in Florida tell us that we are not the same. And that's hurtful. ... We aren't doing this to be the first couple to get married. The point of our case is to change the law for everybody. We are just trying to make things better for our community." 3

William Lee Jones said:

" We don't have the right to make medical decisions for each other. If something were to happen, we wouldn't be protected. What would happen to our home? How would we be impacted by Social Security? We just want to be seen as the same as any other committed couple." 3 

Their hearing was held on 2014-JUL-07.

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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. "Florida," Freedom to Marry, at: http://www.freedomtomarry.org/
  2. Steve Rothaus, "Gay Key West men sue for right to marry in Florida after Monroe clerk’s office denies couple a license," Gay South Florida, at: http://miamiherald.typepad.com/
  3. "Key West bartenders stand up for marriage,"Freedom to Marry, 2014-JUL, at: http://www.freedomtomarry.org/
  4. Map was truncated from a full Florida county map that was created by MapWise, Inc. at: http://www.mapwise.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-AUG-05
Latest update: 2014-AUG-05
Author: B.A. Robinson

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