Recognition of same-sex unions in Florida

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Legal recognition of
same-sex relationships
  1. Can be registered also in Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten
  2. When performed in Mexican states that have legalized same-sex marriage

Commencement dates:
  1. To be determined
  2. June 1, 2014 for statewide
LGBT portal

Florida law does not recognize any form of relationship between same-sex partners.[1] Same-sex marriage and civil unions were banned when a state constitutional amendment was endorsed by 62% of the voters on November 4, 2008,[2][3] exceeding the 60% margin required.[4]

According to recent polls, the majority of Floridians support some form of legal recognition for same-sex couples. A June 2011 poll found that 67% of Florida voters supported legal recognition of same-sex couples in the form of either same-sex marriage or civil unions.

Domestic partnership[edit]

There is no legal recognition for same-sex couples on the state level.

On January 9, 2013, State Senator Eleanor Sobel introduced SB 196 Families First which would provide same-sex couples the major state benefits offered to married opposite-sex couples.[5] It passed in the Committee on Children, Families and Elder Affairs by a 5-4 vote, but eventually died in the Judiciary Committee on May 3.[6]

Local level[edit]

Map of Florida counties and cities that offer domestic partner benefits either county-wide or in particular cities.
  City offers domestic partner benefits
  County-wide partner benefits through domestic partnership
  County or city does not offer domestic partner benefits

Although there is no statewide recognition of domestic partnerships, more than half of the population of Florida lives in counties or cities that recognize domestic partnerships.[7]


Nine of Florida's 67 counties recognize domestic partnerships.


Same-sex marriage[edit]

Statutory ban[edit]

In 1977, the state enacted legislation banning same-sex marriage.[36] State Senator Curtis Peterson, sponsor of the legislation, said it was designed to say "we are tired of you and wish you would go back in the closet."[37]

In 1997, the Florida Legislature overwhelmingly adopted its own Defense of Marriage Act, which states marriage is the "union between one man and one woman" and bars the state from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states. Governor Lawton Chiles said: "I believe that, by and large, most Floridians are tolerant and will one day come to view a broader range of domestic partnerships as an acceptable part of life. But, that is not the case today." The bill became law without his signature.[38]

Responses to San Francisco same-sex weddings, 2004[edit]

The San Francisco 2004 same-sex weddings prompted a flurry of similar attempts at same-sex marriage in Florida. On February 25, Attorney Ellis Rubin filed suit in Ft. Lauderdale's Broward County Court on behalf of 170 gays and lesbians who sought the right to marry. The suit, brought against Broward County Clerk Howard Forman was, according to Ft. Lauderdale's NBC news affiliate, "believed to be the first formal legal challenge to the state law specifying that marriage licenses be issued only to parties consisting of one male and one female."[39]

The city of Key West passed a symbolic resolution in support of same-sex marriage. Organizers of a new White Ribbon Campaign for equality launched an effort on March 16 at the Key West City Commission meeting to emphasize the discrepancy between simultaneously extolling freedom and banning gay marriages.[citation needed] On March 18, Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio signed an order, effective the following year, extending health benefits to domestic partners of city employees.[40] On March 18, eight same-sex couples applied for marriage licenses. A deputy clerk at the Orange County Courthouse denied them. Several then participated in a union ceremony sponsored by the First Unitarian Church of Orlando.[41] On March 22, gay and lesbian couples gathered in Gainesville at the Alachua County Courthouse and elsewhere around the state as they attempted to obtain marriage licenses and were turned away.[citation needed]

Constitutional amendment[edit]

On November 4, 2008, voters approved Florida Amendment 2, a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and civil unions in the state. Passage required approval by 60% of the voters and 62% of voters did so.[42]

In 2013, Get Engaged and Equal Marriage Florida were formed, two organizations dedicated to overturning the constitutional amendment in the 2014 elections.[43][44]

State lawsuits[edit]

On January 21, 2014, six same-sex couples, some of whom have children or grandchildren, filed lawsuit in Miami-Dade County Circuit Court challenging the state's ban on same-sex marriage as a violation of their right to Equal Protection under the U.S. Constitution. The suit, Pareto v. Ruvin, was organized by Equality Florida. It named Miami-Dade County Clerk Harvey Ruvin as defendant because his office had refused to issue marriage licenses to the couples. [45] The case was assigned to Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel,[46]

On April 3, 2014, two men in Key West filed suit against the County Clerk of Monroe County after they were denied a marriage license. Plaintiffs Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones are represented by Key Largo attorney Bernadette Restivo, and the case has been assigned to Monroe County Chief Judge David Audlin.[47]

Federal lawsuits[edit]

On February 28, 2014, two civil rights attorneys in Jacksonville filed a similar lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida on behalf of a same-sex couple from Florida who married in Canada in 2009. Both plaintiffs are state employees, but one is unable to designate the other as a spouse in the state retirement benefits program as someone in a different-sex marriage can.[48] The case, Brenner v. Scott, was assigned to Judge Robert Lewis Hinkle.[49]

On March 13, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and attorneys from Podhurst Orseck, a Miami-based firm, filed suit in federal court on behalf of Miami-Dade LGBT advocacy group SAVE [50] and eight same-sex couples already married in other states asking the courts to order Florida to recognize their marriages. It named as defendants Governor Rick Scott and three other state officials.[51]

Public opinion[edit]

March 2004 – Miami Herald and St. Petersburg Times Poll – 65% Oppose Same-Sex Marriage, Majority Support Civil Unions.
A poll conducted by The Miami Herald and St. Petersburg Times found that 65% of Floridians oppose same-sex marriage, while 27% are supportive and 8% are undecided. A majority, however, believe that same-sex couples should have equal rights as married heterosexual couples. Only 41% are supportive of President Bush’s push for a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

July 2004 – Florida Times-Union and South Florida Sun-Sentinel Poll –
Only 2% Name Same-Sex Marriage As Most Important Issue In Presidential Election of 2004.
In a survey conducted by The Florida Times-Union and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 600 likely Florida voters were asked to name the most important issue determining their vote for president. 2% of those polled named same-sex marriage as their biggest concern, while 26% said it was jobs and the economy, 16% said the situation in Iraq, and 15% said the war on terrorism.

January 2009 - A January 2009 Quinnipiac poll found that 35% of Florida voters supported only civil unions and an additional 27% supported full marriage rights. 31% believed that same-sex couples should not receive any form of recognition.[52]

March 2011 - A March 2011 survey by Public Policy Polling found that 28% of Florida voters supported the legalization of same-sex marriage, while 31% supported civil unions, 37% were against all legal recognition of same-sex couples, and 4% were unsure.[53]

June 2011 - A June 2011 survey by Public Policy Polling found that 37% of Florida voters supported the legalization of same-sex marriage, while 53% opposed it and 10% were not sure. A separate question on the same survey found that 67% of Florida voters supported legal recognition of same-sex couples, with 33% supporting same-sex marriage, 34% supporting civil unions but not marriage, 31% opposing all legal recognition, and 1% not sure.[54]

June 2012- A June 2012 Public Policy Polling poll found that only a slight plurality of Florida voters believe gay marriage should be illegal. The poll found that 42% of Florida voters supported the legalization of same-sex marriage, while 45% opposed it and 13% were not sure. A separate question on the same survey found that 72% of Florida voters supported legal recognition of same-sex couples, with 37% supporting same-sex marriage, 35% supporting civil unions but not marriage, 26% opposing all legal recognition, and 3% not sure. The same poll found that 61% of Florida Democrats support same sex marriage, while 26% oppose it.[55]

A October 2012 Washington Post poll found wide support for gay marriage among Florida voters, reflecting the changing attitudes toward LGBT residents of the state. In the survey, 54% said that same sex marriage should be legal, while 33% were opposed. 13% had no opinion.[56]

A December 2012 Quinnipiac poll found voters almost evenly divided on the issue of same sex marriage. 45% of Florida residents opposed it, while 43% were in favor of it. Whites(45/44), Hispanics(46/44), Democrats(58/31), Independents(47/40), College Graduates(53/36) were generally in favor of same sex marriage. Blacks(31/60), Republicans(23/66) and voters with no college degree(39/49) were more likely to be opposed to the idea.[57]

A March 2013 Public Policy Polling survey found that 38% of Florida voters support same-sex marriage and 37% supported civil unions.[58]

A August 2013 StPetePolls survey found voters evenly divided as well, with 46.3% in favor of allowing same-sex marriage and 46.9% against.[59]

A December 2013 Public Religion Research Institute survey found that 57% of Florida residents support same-sex marriage, while 37% opposed, and 6% didn't know or refused to answer.[60]

A January 2014 Public Policy Polling poll found 47% supporting gay marriage and 44% opposed, the first time the company had found a plurality supporting it.[61]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Sunshine: Florida Statutes Online". Retrieved December 2, 2013. 
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  3. ^ " - Corner of Hollywood and Gay". Retrieved December 2, 2013. 
  4. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)[dead link]
  5. ^ January 11, 2013 - 9:30pm by Sue. (January 11, 2013). "NEWS RELEASE: Florida Senate Files Statewide Domestic Partnership Bill | Equality Florida". Retrieved December 2, 2013. 
  6. ^ "CS/SB 196: Domestic Partners". Retrieved December 2, 2013. 
  7. ^ "Same-Sex Couples Can Now Register As Domestic Partners In Leon County". wfsu. Retrieved November 14, 2013. 
  8. ^ "DOMESTIC PARTNERSHIP INFORMATION SHEET". Monroe County. Retrieved November 14, 2013. 
  9. ^ "ARTICLE VIII. DOMESTIC PARTNERSHIP ACT". Broward County. Retrieved November 14, 2013. 
  10. ^ "Agenda Item Summary". Palm Beach County. Retrieved November 14, 2013. 
  11. ^ "ARTICLE IX. DOMESTIC PARTNERS AND FAMILY HEALTH COVERAGE". Miami-Dade County. Retrieved November 14, 2013. 
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  17. ^ Governments Offering Benefits
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  19. ^ "Domestic Partnership Registration". City of Gainesville. Retrieved March 6, 2012. 
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  21. ^ "Domestic Partnership Information". City of Key West. Retrieved November 14, 2013. 
  22. ^ a b Patterson, Fallan (September 16, 2011). "Council OKs domestic partner benefits". The Osceola News-Gazette. Retrieved March 29, 2012. "St. Cloud followed Kissimmee’s lead Sept. 8 and approved domestic partner benefits for city employees" 
  23. ^ "APM 1-09: Domestic Partnerships". City of Miami. Retrieved March 6, 2012. 
  24. ^ "MIAMI BEACH DOMESTIC PARTNERSHIP REGISTRY". City of Miami Beach. Retrieved November 14, 2013. 
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  36. ^ "Askew signs bill to ban gay marriage". Boca Raton News. June 9, 1977. Retrieved February 15, 2013. 
  37. ^ "New Florida Laws Prohibit Same-Sex Marriage, Adoption". Toledo Blade. June 8, 1977. Retrieved February 15, 2013. 
  38. ^ Michael J. Kamotz, "For Better or For Worse: A Critical Analysis of Florida's Defense of Marriage Act," Florida State University Law Review, III. C., Vol. 25, No. 2 (Winter 1998). Retrieved February 3, 2014
  39. ^ "Gay couples in Florida sue for marriage". The Advocate. February 26, 2014. Retrieved February 3, 2014. 
  40. ^ Varian, Bill (March 12, 2004). "Tampa offers benefits to same-sex couples". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved February 3, 2014. 
  41. ^ Schneider, Mike (March 19, 2004). "Eight gay couples refused marriage licenses in Orlando". Florida Times Union. Retrieved February 3, 2014. 
  42. ^ Brunn, et al, eds., Stanley D. (2011). Atlas of the 2008 Elections. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 258. 
  43. ^ "Equality Florida, Freedom to Marry launch 'Get Engaged' effort to repeal state's gay-marriage ban". The Miami Herald. June 19, 2013. 
  44. ^ "Brito files to begin statewide petition drive, hoping to end Florida's gay-marriage ban in 2014". The Miami Herald. June 21, 2013. 
  45. ^ Man, Anthony (January 21, 2014). "Lawsuit seeks to overturn Florida ban on gay marriage". Florida Sun Sentinel. Retrieved January 21, 2014. 
  46. ^ Rothaus, Steve (March 13, 2014). "Married gay couples sue Florida for recognition". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved March 13, 2014. 
  47. ^ Rothaus, Steve. "Gay Key West men sue for right to marry in Florida after Monroe clerk’s office denies couple a license". Miami Herald. Retrieved April 10, 2014. 
  48. ^ Schoettler, Jim (March 3, 2014). "Jacksonville civil rights attorneys challenge Florida laws refusing to recognize same-sex marriages". The Florida Times-Union. Retrieved March 7, 2014. 
  49. ^ "Couple files federal lawsuit challenging Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage". LGBTQ Nation. March 6, 2014. 
  50. ^ "SAVE & ACLU file marriage recognition lawsuit". Safeguarding American Values for Everyone. March 13, 2014. Retrieved April 8, 2014. 
  51. ^ Rothaus, Steven (March 13, 2014). "Eight gay couples sue Florida to recognize their legal marriages Read more here:". Miami Herald. Retrieved March 13, 2014. 
  52. ^ "New Poll: Majority of FL OK with Gay Adoption and Relationships". January 22, 2009. Retrieved December 2, 2013. 
  53. ^ Retrieved December 2, 2013.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  54. ^ "Florida against Ryan Medicare Plan". July 6, 2011. Retrieved December 2, 2013. 
  55. ^ "LeBron more popular than Gov. Scott in Florida". Public Policy Polling. Retrieved June 8, 2012. 
  56. ^ "Washington Post Poll". The Washington Post. 
  57. ^ "December 20, 2012 - Florida Voters Oppose School Reforms By Big Margins, Quinnipiac University Poll Finds; Voters Split On Same-Sex Marriage". Quinnipiac University. Retrieved December 20, 2012. 
  58. ^ . Public Policy Polling  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  59. ^ "August 2013 Florida Statewide General Survey". StPetePolls. 
  60. ^ A Shifting Landscape
  61. ^