Gay Marriage in Florida | History and Laws

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Is gay marriage legal in Florida? If you do not know the answer to this question and you want to learn more on the topic, this article includes all the info that you need to know!

 

The history of the fight for gay marriage in Florida

Since January 6th, 2015, same-sex marriage in Florida is legal. However, before this date, there were several attempts made to outlaw gay marriage in the state. The most important event was the law introduced by governor Reubin Askew on June 8th, which prohibited same-sex couples from adopting children and getting married in Florida.

Even more so, in 1997, a new prohibition that prevented recognition from other jurisdictions was imposed in an attempt to ban the recognition of gay marriages. 

In 2004, private lawyers filed a legal case in an attempt to make it legal for Floridians to get married, regardless of their sexual orientation. However, the case, and other similar cases, were unsuccessful. 

In 2008, anti-same-sex marriage supporters from Florida managed to push through the Florida Amendment 2, an amendment that denied same-sex couples the freedom to marry and to have their partnerships recognized under the law.

After several years dedicated by LGBTQ-supporters to advocate the matter of same-sex marriage, a poll conducted in 2014 showed the 57% of Floridians agreed that gay marriage should be legal. 

Maybe one of the most important events that came to shape the legislation concerning same-sex marriage in the state of Florida was a legal case. Brenner v. Scott is the case filed on February 28th, 2014 by a same-sex couple who sought to have their marriage recognized by the state of Florida by two men who were married in Canada and who were, at the time, state employees. 

The two plaintiffs argued that, since their marriage was not recognized by the state, they were unable to name one another as spouses, and thus, they were not able to enjoy the benefits of the retirement program funded by the state. Later on, a second couple who had a similar story joined the lawsuit. There were many other similar cases filled by Floridian couples that fought for their right to be legally married. 

In August 2014, Judge Hinkle granted the plaintiffs motion for injunction, and the ban on same-sex marriages was declared unconstitutional. In June of 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States declared that it is unconstitutional for states to declare same-sex marriages banned. This historical ruling was made on the basis of the 14th Amendment that granted all US citizens “equal protection of the laws.”

As a result, all states are required to license gay marriages and also to recognize same-sex licenses that have been granted by other states. 

 

Groups that made the change possible

The fight for same-sex marriage in Florida was not possible without the work of numerous vocal groups and organizations that spoke on the matter. 

Equality Florida is one of the largest organizations that work on earning equal rights for the LGBTQ community in the state of Florida. The Equality Florida Institute was formed in 1997.

ACLU of Florida is a non-partisan and non-profit union that was founded in 1920 that has the purpose of defending the civil liberties of US citizens. The ACLU has no less than 130,000 supporters in Florida. 

NCLR or The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a leading LGBT legal organization that operates across all states. The main role of the NCLR in the case of same-sex marriage legalization in Florida came in the lawsuit Pareto v. Ruvin, where the organization served as a co-counsel. 

Pareto v. Ruvin was a marriage equality case that was filed in Miami in January 2014 where six same-sex couples argued that the laws that banned gay marriage in Florida were in violation of the Constitution. The Judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. 

Freedom to Marry was the name of the campaign that won the rights of marriage equality in the US. The founder and the president of this campaign was Evan Wolfson, a gay rights activist and attorney who is credited with designing this successful campaign. After the purpose of the campaign was realized, Freedom to Marry closed its operation in 2016.

SAVE is another Florida-based organization that fights for the rights of LGBTQ communities. Even more so, SAVE was also one of the plaintiffs in the cases that challenged the same-sex ban in the state. Moreover, this organization also educates those who, through their actions, harm the LGBTQ community in Florida.

 

LGBT rights in the state of Florida

Even though same-sex marriages are legal in Florida, there are cases of discrimination reported in the state. This is a direct result of the fact that there are no laws that protect the LGBTQ community from acts of discrimination in all the cities and the counties in the state. 

Due to the situation, it is legal for LGBTQ people in Florida to be denied services and to be discriminated against in the job market because of their sexual orientation. To mend this act of injustice, numerous supporters have tried to pass the Florida Competitive Workforce Act in an attempt to ban discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodation for the LGBTQ community. 

According to the data released by the Public Religion Research Institute, a poll from 2019, showed that 72% of Florida citizens were in support of an anti-discrimination law that protected the rights of the LGBTQ community, while 21% of them opposed such a law. Only 7% of respondents had no opinion on the matter. 

In an attempt to discourage hate crimes against the LGBTQ community, a hate crime law is in effect in Florida. The legal penalties as a result of violations of this law are harsh. It should be mentioned that the law covers crimes committed against victims because of the victim’s sexual orientation, not gender identity. 

Moreover, transgender people in Florida can legally change their gender by submitting an application to the Bureau of Vital Statistics, as well as a written statement, a letter from a physician, and a fee. Sex reassignment surgery or sterilization is not necessary. Transgender people can also apply to change their state IDs and driver’s licenses. 

 

Adoption

In 1977, the Florida Legislature passed a law that actively prohibited LGBTQ adoptions. However, in 2010, the ban was deemed unconstitutional and, as a result, it is now legal for LGBTQ people to adopt children. Florida was the last state to legalized same-sex adoption. 

Lesbian couples now have access to in vitro fertilization just like different-sex couples. Gay male couples can use surrogacy arrangements. 

 

Conversion therapy

Conversion therapy or reparative therapy is a practice that many pro-LGBTQ organizations have tried to ban as numerous studies carried out by prestigious institutions such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychological Association, and the American Psychiatric Association have shown that it is associated with severe psychological effects and, in some cases, it can be fatal.  

In 2015, David Richardson, a State Representative, filed a bill that sought to ban conversion therapy on minors. However, the bill was not passed by the House subcommittee. Even though there were other similar bills proposed in the following years, conversion therapy has still not been banned. 

Yet, it is worth pointing out that the Florida Department of Children and Families has prohibited staff from actively discouraging children to express their gender identity or sexual orientation. A poll conducted in 2017, showed that most Florida citizens are against conversion therapy for minors. 

 

Gay pride and acceptance

Miami Beach now has a large LGBTQ community and, according to historians, the city has had a gay night scene ever since the 1930s. Some go as far as considering Miami as a mecca for gay people. More than 1 million of LGBTQ visitors come to Miami each year. 

Florida is home to many gay pride events such as the PrideFest Key West, the Palm Beach Pride, Pride Fort Lauderdale, OutShine Film Festival, Come Out with Pride (Orlando), Gay Days at Walt Disney World, the Tallahassee Pridefest, and many others. Even more so, Wilton Manors, a city in Broward County, Florida is considered home to one of the most sizable LGBTQ populations in the US.

In the last decades, the living conditions for the LGBTQ population in Florida have improved.  Nowadays, many cities in the state are accepting of the LGBTQ communities and not that many cases of homophobia have been reported. This is a drastic change when compared to the situation from a few decades ago when antipathy and hostility were common behaviors.

One of the biggest factors that contributed to this change in the environment was the fact that numerous campaigns raised awareness about the rights and the struggles of the LGBTQ community. 

Even though significant changes have been made, it should be noted that in July 2016, Florida was also the place where the deadliest incident in the history of violence against LGBT people in the US occurred. The shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando was widely covered by the media, but no new pieces of legislation that aim to protect the LGBTQ rights have been advanced.