Recent Florida Articles

Love for ALL (June 26, 2015)

The Fight is Over and LOVE has won out! On June 26, 2015, the United States Supreme Court has ruled that gay marriage is legal under the U.S. Constitution. The ruling was determined after a 5-4 decision by the Justices. This federal right to gay marriage has now trumped the remaining 13 states which continued to ban the right. President Obama also confirmed that the ruling “affirms what millions of Americans already believe in their hearts” and it has made “our union a little more perfect.”

As a resident of Florida this means that there is no longer ANY ban on gay marriage despite what the individual state has ruled. The Supreme Court’s decision is the law of the land. So, go and be m(a)rry!

U.S. Supreme Court Says No… (October 9, 2014)

This past Monday the United States Supreme Court finally gave its opinion about the right to gay marriage. The Court said nothing. But nothing is good news for the proponents of gay marriage. Basically, the Court denied the states that were seeking an appeal of lower court rulings banishing laws against gay marriage – those states include Wisconsin, Indiana, Utah, Oklahoma, and Virginia. This ruling means that there are 30 states now allowing gay marriage, which represents approximately 60% of Americans.

As incredible as this news is, what does it mean for Florida? The most important ruling that still stands is from U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle of Tallahassee. Although his opinion is currently being “stayed” (meaning put on hold), it remains precedent in Florida as no higher court has yet to reverse it. Proponents of the ban will request Judge Hinkle to remove the stay, however, they anticipate that Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi will oppose same. Attorney Bondi has a specified amount of time to oppose the request. Until then, Florida will continue to wait and see what lies ahead for gay marriage. Nonetheless, the road has been paved, lines have been painted and the vehicles for allowing gay marriage are waiting to enter. All we need know are the street signs.

The Battle for Gay Marriage Continues in Federal Court (August 2014)

The federal court in Florida has now taken a stance on this hot topic of gay marriage. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle of Tallahassee took a strong position in the battle against gay marriage, ordering the state of Florida to recognize gay marriage entered into in the state and those entered into out of state. In short, his opinion stated that the ban on gay marriage is an “obvious pretext for discrimination.” Furthermore, Judge Hinkle ruled that “[t]olerating views with which one disagrees is a hallmark of civilized society” and the ban “stems entirely, or almost entirely, from moral disapproval of the practice.” His ruling denied Attorney General Pam Bondi’s argument that marriage’s critical feature is the capacity of procreate. From my perspective, this defense was laughable! According to the National Vital Statistics Report of 2013, the approximate percentage of births to unmarried women was 40.6%. Even Pam Bondi herself has been married and divorced twice with no children. The pure ability to procreate in an opposite sex marriage has absolutely no legitimate effect on whether gay marriage should be recognized in Florida.

Although Judge Hinkle immediately stayed the effects of his ruling pending further appeal, proponents of gay marriage now have significant backing from the state and federal courts of Florida. This battle against Florida’s ban wages on.

(source Miami Herald, August 22, 2014 – by Steve Rothaus)

Third Times a Charm (August 2014)

The Broward Judge who was assigned to a lesbian woman’s lawsuit in her fight to receive a divorce, declared the Florida gay marriage ban unconstitutional. Judge Cohen ruled that in order to consider the divorce, he first had to evaluate whether the ban on same sex marriage was constitutional. Although this a giant success in the fight against the 2008 same sex marriage ban, his ruling was immediately stayed pending a possible appeal by Florida Attorney General, Pam Bondi. However, Judge Cohen’s words were poignant –
“This Court believes that the issue here is not whether there is a right to same sex marriage but instead whether there is a right to marriage from which same sex couples can be excluded. The State of Florida cannot ignore the status and dignity afforded to opposite sex couples, who were married out of state, and not extend those same rights, dignities, and benefits to same sex couples similarly situated.”

In contract to the benefits of marriage, the protections that come with separation and divorce, such as child custody and property issues, must also be afforded to same sex couples. As a family mediator, I am proud to be a resident of South Florida, where our legal system is attempting to fight this horrible, discriminatory ban on same sex couples. Let’s just hope that Attorney Pam Bondi focuses her efforts on enforcing Florida’s legal issues elsewhere.

(source Miami Herald, by Steve Rothaus August 5, 2014)

Broward County Teetering on Declaring Gay Marriage Ban Unconstitutional (July 2014)

A lesbian woman in Broward County just wants a divorce! But she can’t get it. Why? Because the State of Florida does not recognize gay marriage or a civil union within its own state or those entered into out of state. It’s highly possible that the Circuit Court judge on this case may become the third Florida judge to declare the ban on gay marriage unconstitutional. The woman can not receive a divorce in Vermont where she entered into the civil union because both spouses need to sign the dissolution papers and her soon to be ex-spouse is unreachable. The Broward judge has stated that he can not grant a divorce until he addresses the constitutionality of the same sex marriage ban. The attorney representing the woman expects that the judge will recognize the out of state civil union, by declaring the ban on gay marriage unconstitutional.

With all the horrific events occurring in the world, why does gay marriage continue to make headlines? Well, in Florida one main hurdle remains to be Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. She continues to fight against the right to marry lawsuits because in 2008 approximately 62% of Florida voters supported the ban. At least other states are beginning to see the nonsense with the ban. North Carolina, for example, declared it would no longer contest right to marry lawsuits that seek to overturn the ban of gay marriage. Additionally, a federal court in Virginia upheld a lower court’s ruling that the ban was unconstitutional.

These may be small victories in a big fight, but at least they are setting precedent around the country. Let’s stop wasting our time, money and energy fighting against those who just want love (or divorce), and focus our attention on much more globally, crucial topics.

(source Miami Herald, Local & State, by Steve Rothaus July 31, 2014)

The Fight for Gay Marriage (July 2014)

Same sex couples were almost handed a win in the fight for gay marriage last Thursday in Key West, Florida. A gay couple filed a lawsuit against the Monroe County Clerk when they were denied a marriage license earlier this year. Believe it or not, Chief Circuit Judge Luis Garcia ruled that the Florida Constitutional Amendment banning same sex marriage violates the United States Constitution, which promises U.S. citizens protection over “the rights of the individual, the rights of the unpopular and rights of the powerless, even at the cost of offending the majority.” However, Attorney General Pam Bondi immediately appealed the ruling to the Third District Court of Appeal, which triggered an automatic stay on Judge Garcia’s ruling. What does that mean?? It means that gay couples can not proceed with obtaining marriage licenses in Key West until either the stay is lifted by Judge Garcia or the district court. Once again, it becomes a waiting game for this couple and thousands more. But at least it is a HUGE step in the right direction!
The lack of same sex marriage laws similarly affects the couples’ ability to divorce. Gay couples who have married in another state that allows gay marriage still can not receive a divorce in Florida. A lesbian couple in Hillsborough County is suing to divorce and the court would not grant it because Florida does not recognize the marriage. The couple could still attend a family mediation and create a divorce settlement agreement so they can move on with their lives. Although the agreement would not be enforceable through the court system, it could still act as a contract between the parties.

(Source- Miami Herald, Same-Sex Rights, by Steve Rothaus and Cammy Clark, July 19, 2014)

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