Florida Joins Marriage Equality Fight — But This Is Florida, So…

Plaintiffs in Florida's marriage equality lawsuit. (Photo courtesy
Plaintiffs in Florida’s marriage equality lawsuit. (Photo courtesy

Another state has jumped in line to head down the aisle of marriage equality: plaintiffs in Florida filed a lawsuit to legalize same-sex marriage, claiming the current ban is unconstitutional.

The case was filed by six same-sex couples. LGBT rights group Equality Florida also joined the suit as a plaintiff, under the notion that all of their members were discriminated against due to their inability to wed legally.

Florida’s arrival at the marriage equality party is detailed by Billy Manes, resident brain extraordinaire at Orlando Weekly, and he presents a glowing endorsement for this (admittedly surprising) turn of events in one of the most anti-LGBT states in the nation.  Fun fact (well, not so fun, really): Manes is one of the state’s leading advocated for marriage equality, although he doesn’t currently have the luxury of being a plaintiff in the case; that sad story is the subject of the documentary Billy & Alan: In Life, Love And Death, Equality Matters, which details all the wretched side-effects that bubble up from the depths when a couple is not allowed to get married.

Alas, unlike the solid case argued in Oklahoma, the expected approval in Utah, and the budding case in Missouri that will presumably pass, the path to marriage equality is a rocky one in Florida. Noticeably absent from the lawsuit is representation by ACLU, the organization that argues most of these major constitutional issues. This is a constitutional rights case, so why is ACLU not involved with Florida as they are with the other current lawsuits? They deftly represented Frank Martin Gill in striking down the state’s ban on gay and lesbian parents adopting children.

That is part of the reason right there: Florida was the last state in the U.S. to have that law in effect, and the government actively enforced the ban until as recently as 2010, and it had survived numerous legal challenges before the government basically gave up without admitting actual defeat. Amendment 2, which enshrines man-and-woman marriage in the state constitution, was approved by over 60 percent of voters, and it is what hinders any state-level attempts at enacting even an anemic little domestic partnership registry.  This is Florida, the land of all things ass-backwards, and it is likely that the state’s conservative-slanting legal system will stymie the case for years simply because they feel the public has the right to be as bigoted as they want to be. So until the Feds get involved in the fracas, don’t hold your breath waiting for good news.

Nevertheless, Manes makes a good point with his conclusion that the lawsuit adds to the critical mass for marriage equality across the U.S. as a federal action, so all campaigns are welcome. The initial case was filed in Miami-Dade County, the most liberal district in the state, so presumably the case will get some traction in the court system there.