Gay Marriage and Divorce Now Legal in Florida
Last August, a court ruled that Florida’s ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional, and ever since then men and women of the same sex have been allowed to get married in the state. However, this ruling also means that same-sex divorce, never recognized before in the state, is now also an option for gay and lesbian couples.
First Gay Divorce
The first formal divorce of a gay couple was granted in Fort Lauderdale by a Broward County judge. He used the divorce to join other judges across the state who believed that the ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional. Circuit Judge Dale Cohen divorced lesbian couple Heather Brassner and Megan Lade, who were brought together in a civil union in Vermont in 2002. The couple actually lived in Florida and had wanted a divorce for five years prior to the ban being lifted.
“It’s like an emotional weight being lifted off,” said Ms. Brassner. “I just feel free and I couldn’t have gotten a better holiday gift.” By ruling that the ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional, the ruling also means that out-of-state gay marriages must also be recognized by the state of Florida. As a result, Florida courts can now divorce gay couples that were legally married in other states but want a divorce in this state’s court.
Ms. Lade did not take part in the divorce proceedings, and a private investigator was unable to find her before the divorce took place. Ms. Brassner says that she has not seen Ms. Lade in several years.
Battle for Same-Sex Divorce
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi did not originally appeal the divorce proceeding when it was first brought to court in August. However, before the final divorce hearing Judge Cohen vacated his earlier ruling because Ms. Brassner did not inform the Attorney General of the constitutional challenge, which is required by law. Ms. Bondi then intervened in the divorce claiming that the ban should be upheld on gay marriage and divorce, but Judge Cohen reissued his decision affirming the divorce.
Since this case, the ban on gay marriage and divorce was sent all of the way up to the United States Supreme Court, where the justices agreed at the end of January to hear four new cases regarding same-sex marriage by the end of June. The Supreme Court plans to rule on whether states have the power to ban same-sex marriage and to refuse to recognize such marriages performed in other states. A likely byproduct of the rulings on these cases are whether states can grant divorces to same sex-couples married in their state or others.
Contact a Florida Divorce Attorney Today
If you or a loved one has questions regarding a same-sex divorce in the Orlando area, let the experienced family law office of Steve W. Marsee, P.A. help. Call the office or contact us today for a free and confidential consultation of your case.