Same-Sex Marriage Ruling May Affect Ability to Divorce
On July 17, a Florida judge ruled that gay marriage is now allowed in Monroe County, siding with several same-sex couples who claimed that a voter-approved ban was discriminatory. The ruling drew national attention, arriving about two months after a less-publicized Hillsborough County decision in which a circuit county judge upheld the ban by refusing to grant a divorce to two women, Keiba Lynn Shaw and Mariama Changamire Shaw, who married in Massachusetts. Now, some experts believe that the July 17 decision on gay marriage might help bolster the Shaw’s divorce case.
When the Hillsborough County circuit judge refused to grant the divorce, she stated that since Florida law and the state constitution do not recognize same-sex marriage, the couple’s marriage is not considered valid and therefore cannot be dissolved. Although the Monroe County marriage equality decision has no force of law in any other part of the state, lawyers for the Shaws have voiced that it may provide some additional persuasion to bolster the case for divorce equality.
According to the lawyers, since the Monroe County judge declared that marriage is a fundamental right for all couples, including same-sex couples, the Shaws should be able to successfully argue that divorce is a fundamental right for all couples. In addition, the attorney representing Keiba Lynn Shaw has stated that the court doesn’t technically need to recognize the Shaws’ marriage to grant the divorce — it simply needs to establish that others recognize the marriage and allow the Shaws to be legally declared single.
Issues surrounding same-sex marriage, domestic partnership and divorce can be especially complex. If you are struggling with one of these issues, speak with an experienced Fort Lauderdale family law attorney.