Recognition of same-sex unions in Florida
|Legal recognition of
Florida law does not recognize any form of relationship between same-sex partners. Same-sex marriage and civil unions were banned when a state constitutional amendment was endorsed by 62% of the voters on November 4, 2008, exceeding the 60% margin required.
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.
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. 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.
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.
Nine of Florida's 67 counties recognize domestic partnerships.
- 1998: Monroe County
- 1999: Broward County
- 2006: Palm Beach County
- 2008: Miami-Dade County
- 2012: Orange County, Pinellas County, Volusia County
- 2013: Leon County, Sarasota County
- Bay Harbor Islands
- Juno Beach
- Key West
- Lake Worth
- Miami Beach
- North Miami
- North Port
- Punta Gorda
- South Miami
- St. Cloud
- St. Petersburg
- West Palm Beach
- Wilton Manors
In 1977, the state enacted legislation banning same-sex marriage. 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."
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.
Responses to San Francisco same-sex weddings, 2004
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."
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. On March 18, Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio signed an order, effective the following year, extending health benefits to domestic partners of city employees. 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. 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.
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.
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.  The case was assigned to Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel,
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.
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. The case, Brenner v. Scott, was assigned to Judge Robert Lewis Hinkle.
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  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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A March 2013 Public Policy Polling survey found that 38% of Florida voters support same-sex marriage and 37% supported civil unions.
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.
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.
- LGBT rights in Florida
- Civil union in the United States
- Domestic partnership in the United States
- Florida Amendment 2
- Same-sex marriage in the United States
- LGBT adoption
- We Are Dad, a documentary film about same sex adoption in Florida
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- Governments Offering Benefits
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- "MIAMI BEACH DOMESTIC PARTNERSHIP REGISTRY". City of Miami Beach. Retrieved November 14, 2013.
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- Pinellas County approves domestic partner registry
- "Declaration of Domestic Partnership". City of Sarasota. Retrieved March 29, 2012.
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- A Shifting Landscape