Marriage rights for homosexuals have been a hot topic for a number of years now. Florida, which fairly easily passed a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage back in 2008, has been dragged back into the fight by one Florida woman, but not for the reason you think.
Maria Matheau is fighting the state’s ban on homosexual marriage not because she wants to get married in Florida, but because she is unable to get divorced from her spouse. Because the state of Florida does not acknowledge her marriage, many would think that she and her partner could just separate, but there are quite a few legal obligations that would need to be dealt with. Those could include anything from dividing joint assets, shared bank accounts, enforceable court orders, or any other legal obligations.
Matheau is using specific examples of rights that she is being denied because of the state’s gay marriage ban: The right to due process, the right to equal protection, the right to privacy, and the right to access to the courts.
This case follows pretty closely after Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi called for all same-sex cases to be halted until the United States Supreme Court could make a decision. Matheau is pushing for the case to continue through legal channels, though, saying that there is no reason to wait on their case. She does have a point, since if a state’s highest court makes a decision, it cannot be reviewed by SCOTUS.
The fight over same-sex marriage has been raging back and forth across the country for years now. First some states legalized same-sex unions, then some legalized same-sex marriage, then certain states made same-sex marriage illegal including recognizing marriages filed in other states, and the fight continues.
Most recently, 8 couples are suing the state of Florida for refusing to recognize their marriages. The lawsuit, which has been filed by the ACLU of Florida, is challenging that Florida has the right to refuse to recognize their marriages.
According to the executive director of the ACLU of Florida, “our historic victory in last year’s Supreme Court case striking down (the federal Defense of Marriage Act) means that many loving and committed Floridians have marriages that are recognized by the federal government. Sadly, Florida refuses to recognize those marriages, often at significant cost to their families. The time has come for Florida to end its discrimination against same sex couples, including those whose marriages are legally recognized elsewhere in our country and by the federal government.”
The Defense of Marriage Act, which was instituted in 1995, still has an active Section which allows states to individually decide whether they will honor same-sex unions, however, and recently the people of Florida voiced their opinions. In 2008, 61% of voters made an amendment to the Florida state constitution banning gay marriage as well as recognizing out-of-state unions and domestic partnerships.
This is not the first time that lawsuits have been brought against the government in Florida. Back in January, Miami-Dade County Clerk Harvey Ruvin was sued when his office refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. While the case is still pending, the state has refused to comment, which has given conservative groups hope, and allowed them to take steps to protect the recent Florida marriage amendment.
It is unknown what will happen with these 8 couples, but it is undeniable that the issue of same-sex marriage will continue to be a loaded one for quite a while to come.
Florida State Senator Eleanor Sobel filed a statewide bill on January 9 that would allow citizens of the state to enter into domestic partnerships. State Bill 196, which is known as the Families First bill, offers a way for non-married as well as LGBT couples to be legally recognized.
As it stands currently in the State of Florida, atypical couples as well as non-married couples have no legal relationship. Sobel’s bill would give same-sex couples and non-married couples the same benefits married couples receive, such as hospital visitation rights and other medical decision making responsibilities.
Although some counties and cities in Florida do have domestic partnerships, statewide there is no policy that covers domestic partnerships. Those counties that legally recognize same-sex couples are Broward, Leon, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Orange, Palm Beach, Pinellas and Volusia Counties. Eleven cities in the state also offer some sort of legal recognition for domestic partners.
According to Sarah Warbelow, the State Legislative Director of the Human Rights Campaign, the state of Florida needs to step up to the plate and tackle the issue to ensure non-discrimination. She reported a poll by the Human Rights Campaign has shown that 80 percent of Americans support non-discrimination rights for the LGBT community. However, only fifty percent support marriage equality for the LGBT community.
Mallory Wells, the Public Policy director of Equality Florida, stated equality is an American value, and added, “We’ve seen over the last few years a big increase in the way America recognizes same-sex relationships and LGBT citizens culturally.”
Evan Wolfson, Freedom to Marry’s founder and president, explained that “until DOMA is overturned and Florida’s gay couples are allowed to marry, statewide domestic partnership would be a good step to provide those important protections and responsibilities that are denied to those families because of the exclusion from marriage.”
Senator Sobel’s Families First bill would be a step in the right direction for equal rights for all of Florida’s LGBT citizens.
Original story can be found here.
The Miami Herald reported last week a Florida judge approved the listing of three people on the birth certificate of 23-month-old girl.
A lesbian couple, Maria Italiano and Cher Filippazzo, used professional fertility clinics in their effort to become pregnant, but all efforts failed. They then asked a gay friend, Massimiliano Gerina, to donate sperm, and on March 10, 2011, Italiano gave birth to daughter Emma.
When the couple became pregnant, they planned that Filippazzo would adopt Emma after the birth. However when Gerina was served with legal documents severing his rights as Emma’s guardian, he refused to give up those rights saying the lesbian couple had “claimed they sought a father for the baby as well.” Although Gerina is gay, he was quoted by the Daily Mail as saying, “It is kind of a modern family, but I’m old style. I believe that kids should have both a male figure and a female figure.”
A two-year paternity battle that ensued after Gerina’s refusal to sign away his rights to Emma ended last week with the Florida judge’s ruling. The ruling is seen as not only unique, but as what could be considered a landmark case in births of this type.
Although a number of reports are hyping this case as involving “three parents”, attorneys for both the couple and Gerina stated this is not the case. Filippazzo and Italino are listed as the parents and Gerina as the father. Gerina’s attorney praised the decision stating the ruling established an “entirely new concept” of a family. “There are three parties involved …. I agree that makes the case unique.”
Original story can be found here.
Last year, the vote to pass Orlando’s domestic partner registry was not only quick, but uneventful as well. However, extending the registry to cover the whole county, turned into a tumultuous political battle. On Friday when the vote was taken for the measure, neither the county commissioners nor Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs showed. Nevertheless, the measure passed the commission by a 6-1 vote. Comptroller Martha Haynie, who advocated for both registries, was the one who the official rollout was left to, and will be the person who will catalog all the relationships recorded by the registry.
Haynie stated that “we can acknowledge and celebrate that now anywhere in Orange County more families can be protected and respected when they face illnesses, accidents or end-of-life decisions.” She also described the registry as an “important milestone in recognizing gay and lesbian families.”
One couple who has been a committed couple for more than two decades, became the first couple to sign up for Orange County’s new domestic partner registry. For Phil Windsor and Gary Ashland, their relationship wasn’t legally recognized by the town of Edgewood where they reside, until Friday. Now the couple will share some of the same rights that their married neighbors have always enjoyed.
Gary Ashland said that the registry is the “first step towards actual marriage,” with his partner, Phil Windsor stating that this is a “big step from when I was growing up in West Virginia.”
Couples who desire to register as domestic partners can register in person downtown at Orlando City Hall for $30.00, or they can print a form from the city or comptroller’s website, have it signed and notarized and send it in with a fee of $18.50 and they will officially be registered as a domestic partner couple in Orange County.