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Religious Tolerance logo

Florida: Recognition of same-sex relationships,same-sex
marriage (SSM; a.k.a. gay marriage) and LGBT equality

Florida: Introduction: Recent history, timeline,
polls, and current status of gay marriages:

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gay couple marryingRecent history and current status of SSM in Florida:

Although the State of Florida did not recognize same-sex relationships prior 2015-JAN-05, many of its counties and cities already had a domestic partnership registry for same-sex couples across the state. These registries give certain benefits and protections to loving, committed same-sex couples. However, it had 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 had become common phenomenon in some conservative states. In Texas, for example, the state Legislature has been historically controlled by Republicans whose party opposes marriage equality. Meanwhile all but one of Texas' cities is controlled by Democrats whose party supports marriage equality.

Since 2015-JAN-06, following a ruling by a federal District Court, same-sex couples have routinely been able to obtain marriage licenses in Florida.

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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. The state has chosen to recognize loving, committed same-sex couples only as "legal strangers" -- as roommates without protection to themselves or their children.

    Also, Frank Martin Gill won a case in a state circuit court. He successfully obtained the right to adopt two foster children that he and his partner had been raising. The state appealed the case to the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court of Florida.

  • 2008: State Circuit Court Judge Cindy S. Lederman of the Circuit Court of the 11th Judicial Circuit in and for Miami-Dade County ruled that a law banning gay and lesbian people from adopting children in Florida was unconstitutional.

  • 2010: A three-judge panel of the Florida Third District Circuit Court of Appeal, a state court, upheld the lower court ruling concerning adoption. The state did not appeal the case, and so same-sex parents have been able to be considered as adoptive parents ever since.

  • 2011 to 2014: Support for SSM in Florida 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 bill SB 196 to the Senate Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee. The bill is 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.
  • 2013-DEC: A new path emerges to achieve marriage equality: The movement towards making same-sex marriage available everywhere in the U.S. 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 federal, state, and municipal 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:
    • Florida Business Coalition for a Competitive Workforce was 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.

    • 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 throughout Florida.

    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.

    • Throughout the U.S. many state courts, federal district courts, and -- later in the year -- by two U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal, ruled that 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 marriage 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 in a little over five years!

  • 2014-AUG: By the end of the month, state courts in four counties and one U.S. District Court had unanimously ruled in favor of marriage equality. All of the rulings were stayed so that no marriage could take place. The state appealed 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-SEP: Recent public opinion polls on same-sex marriage: All four polls taken between 2013-DEC and 2014-SEP showed a plurality in favor of making marriage available to same-sex couples.1 In two of the polls, the margins were over 16 percentage points!
Date Agency % favor % opposed % no opinion margin of error
2013 NOV/DEC
Pub. Religion Res. Inst.
57%
37%
6%
±7 p.p. *
2014-JAN
Pub. Policy Polling
47
44
9
4
2014-APR
Quinnipiac University
56
39
5
2.6
2014-SEP
NYT/CBS/YouGov
46
40
14
1.7

* Percentage Points
  • 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. Meanwhile, the federal lawsuit was appealed to the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

  • 2014-DEC: The state asked the federal 11th Circuit Court of Appeals to extend the stay. Their request was refused. The state then asked the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay, and were again refused.

  • 2015-JAN-05: The District Court's ruling came into effect at midnight during the evening of 2015-JAN-05. All qualified couples were able to marry as of the morning of JAN-06.

  • 2015-JUN-26: The U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges. It legalized gay marriages across the entire United States. Within three months, same-sex couples were able to obtain marriage licenses across all of the U.S. states, district, and territories with the exception of:

    • About 10% of the counties in Alabama. This does not present much of an impediment to couples because they can travel relatively few miles to an adjacent state from their own and obtain a license there.

    • In American Samoa, a territory in the Pacific Ocean. Because of constitutional limitations, people in that territory cannot necessarily receive all of the benefits and rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court. The government of American Samoa has been trying to decide since early 215-JUL whether same-sex couples will be treated equally.

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References used:

The following information source was used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Same-sex marriage in Florida," Wikipedia, as on 2015-AUG-10, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/

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

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Copyright © 2014 & 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2014-JAN-22
Latest update: 2015-OCT-10
Author: B.A. Robinson

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