Federal Judge Strikes Down Florida Gay Marriage Ban
Despite the fact that gay marriage became legal in Florida and nationwide last year, Florida government officials and legislators have been slow to accept the change in state law. More specifically, Florida Department of Health officials have refused to administer birth certificates to same-sex couples that reflect their legal marriage, and benefits have not been extended to the same-sex partners of state government employees. Furthermore, the Florida Legislature has taken no action to amend the state constitution and two state laws banning gay marriage, even though all three are clearly unconstitutional. In light of this defiance, a U.S. District Court judge has issued a ruling in a long-standing court case that compels state officials to recognize and begin treating same-sex couples in the same manner as heterosexual couples.
History of the Florida Same-Sex Marriage Lawsuit
For over a decade now, a lawsuit has been pending in U.S. District Court that challenges the constitutionality of Florida’s state law prohibiting same-sex marriage. Once the U.S. Supreme Court definitively ruled on the issue in 2015, it was expected that Florida would follow other states across the nation in striking down unconstitutional laws and outlawing procedures and practices related to the issue. The state of Florida, who is represented by Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office, argued that the pending summary judgment motion before the court was moot due to the Supreme Court’s ruling. U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle, however, strongly disagreed. In a strong statement designed to address what he referred to as the state’s “defiance” in failing to immediately and unequivocally accept the higher court’s ruling, Judge Hinkle declared provisions in Florida’s constitution and state laws unconstitutional, and specifically ordered Florida’s surgeon general and secretary of the Department of Management Services from taking any further steps to enforce Florida’s unconstitutional laws.
Implications Still to Come
In response to the ruling, Attorney General Bondi declined to comment, simply referencing her prior statement regarding last summer’s U.S. Supreme Court decision, in which she acknowledged that the U.S. Supreme Court has the final word on interpreting the Constitution, and that the Court has spoken on the issue. Likewise, the Florida Department of Health made no comment on how it might change its procedures in response to the court ruling, stating only that they were currently reviewing the court’s decision. The plaintiffs, or the individuals who initially filed the lawsuit, now can take steps to get attorney’s fees from the state of Florida, a process which may take two months or more.
Contact a Florida Divorce Lawyer For Help
As same-sex marriage becomes the norm in the state of Florida, both legally and otherwise, divorces involving same-sex couples also will inevitably follow. These divorce cases can raise unique legal issues, especially with respect to any children whom the couple may share. In this situation, it takes the skill and knowledge of a seasoned divorce lawyer to help you through what often prove to be difficult legal proceedings. Contact Vanessa L. Prieto Law Offices, LLC, today, and learn how you can benefit from representation by an experienced Florida divorce attorney.