LGBT rights in Florida

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LGBT rights in Florida
Map of USA FL.svg
Same-sex sexual intercourse legal status Legal since 2003
(Lawrence v. Texas)
Gender identity/expression Altering sex on birth certificate requires court order or SRS and legal name change
Discrimination protections None statewide
Family rights
Recognition of
Same-sex marriage legal since 2015
Adoption Legal since 2010

LGBT people in the U.S. state of Florida face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Same-sex sexual activity became legal in the state after the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Lawrence v. Texas on June 26, 2003, while same-sex marriage has been legal in the state since January 6, 2015. Florida law does not address discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations. However, several cities and counties, comprising about 55% of Florida's population, have enacted anti-discrimination ordinances. Conversion therapy is also banned in a number of cities in the state, mainly in the Miami metropolitan area.

Legality of same-sex sexual activity[edit]

After Florida became a territory of the United States in 1821, the Territorial Legislature enacted laws against fornication, adultery, bigamy, and incest, as well as against "open lewdness, or...any notorious act of public indecency, tending to debauch the morals of society."[1] Florida's first specific sodomy law, which was enacted in 1868 and made sodomy a felony, read: "Whoever commits the abominable and detestable crime against nature, either with mankind or with beast, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison not exceeding twenty years." In 1917, the Florida Legislature added a lesser crime, a second-degree misdemeanor: "Whoever commits any unnatural and lascivious act with another person shall be punished by fine not exceeding five hundred dollars, or by imprisonment not exceeding six months."[2]

Florida courts interpreted the 1868 law to prohibit all sexual activity between two men or two women. In 1971, the Florida Supreme Court, ruling in Franklin v. State, struck down the "crime against nature" statute as unconstitutionally vague. The court retained the state's prohibition on sodomy by ruling that anal and oral sex could still be prosecuted under the lesser charge of "lewd and lascivious" conduct.[3]

Same-sex sexual activity remained illegal in Florida until 2003, when the United States Supreme Court struck down all state sodomy laws in Lawrence v. Texas.[4] As of 2017, the state's sodomy law, though unenforceable, has not been repealed by the Florida Legislature.[5]

Recognition of same-sex relationships[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

The state enacted legislation banning same-sex marriage in 1977.[6] Since the passage of Florida Amendment 2 in November 2008 by a vote of 61.9% in favor and 38.1% opposed, both same-sex marriage and civil unions have been banned by Florida's state Constitution.

Amendment 2 added Article I Section 27 to the Florida Constitution, which says:[7]

Inasmuch as marriage is the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife, no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized.

A U.S. district court ruled on August 21, 2014, in Brenner v. Scott that Florida's same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional. As a result of that ruling, same-sex marriage has been legal in the state since the court's temporary injunction took effect on January 6, 2015.[8]

Nine counties, thirty cities, and one town in Florida offer domestic partnership benefits to same-sex couples.

In March 2016, a bill passed the Florida Legislature (House voted 112-5 and Senate voted 38-0) to repeal the 1868 cohabitation ban. The Governor of Florida, Rick Scott, signed the bill into law on April 6, 2016. The law went into effect on July 1, 2016.[9][10][11][12] Only Michigan, Mississippi and North Carolina have similar laws on cohabitation bans.

Adoption and parenting[edit]

In 1977, partly due to the anti-gay Save Our Children campaign led by Anita Bryant in Miami, the Florida Legislature passed a law specifically prohibiting homosexuals from adopting children;[13] the statute survived several court challenges, and was upheld by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in 2004 in Lofton v. Secretary of the Department of Children and Family Services.[14][15]

In 2010, in the case of In re: Gill, involving a same-sex couple raising two foster children whom they wanted to adopt, a state appeals court upheld the ruling by a lower court that the law violated equal protection rights of the couple and the children under the Florida Constitution. The Governor and Attorney General declined to appeal the ruling further, ending Florida's 33-year-old ban on same-sex adoptions.[16]

The Florida Legislature undertook comprehensive adoption reform in 2015. The legislation repeals the 1977 ban on homosexual adoption. HB 7013, passed the Florida House of Representatives on a 68-50 vote on March 11.[17] On April 15, the Florida Senate passed the bill on a 27-11 vote.[18] Republican Governor Rick Scott signed the bill into law on June 11 and went into effect on July 1, 2015.[19][20]

Birth certificates[edit]

Map of Florida counties and cities that have sexual orientation and/or gender identity anti–employment discrimination ordinances as of Feb 2014
  Sexual orientation and gender identity with anti–employment discrimination ordinance
  Sexual orientation and gender identity solely in public employment
  Does not protect sexual orientation and gender identity in employment

Florida's Department of Health began listing both spouses on the birth certificates of children who have parents of the same sex on May 5, 2016. The move came after three same-sex couples filed a federal lawsuit against the state in July 2015 over its practice of treating married same-sex couples differently by listing only one parent on their children's birth certificates.[21]

Discrimination protections[edit]

Since 2000, and amended in 2007 under Florida law, nursing home and hospital visitation can not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, but gender identity is not addressed.[22]

Florida state law does not address discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation.[14] Polls have shown that about 75% of Floridians support legally protecting LGBT people from discrimination.[23]

The counties of Alachua,[24] Broward,[25] Duval,[23] Hillsborough,[26] Leon,[25] Miami-Dade,[27] Monroe,[25] Orange,[28] Osceola,[29] Palm Beach,[25] Pinellas[30] and Volusia,[25] and the cities and towns of Atlantic Beach,[31] Boynton Beach,[32] Delray Beach,[33] Dunedin,[25] Gainesville,[25] Greenacres[34] Gulfport,[25] Haverhill,[23][35] Jacksonville,[36] Key West,[25] Lake Clarke Shores,[37] Lake Worth,[25] Largo,[38] Leesburg,[39] Mascotte,[40] Miami,[32] Miami Beach,[25] Mount Dora,[23] Neptune Beach,[41] North Port,[25] Oakland Park,[25] Orlando,[42] Pembroke Pines,[43] Sarasota,[27][44] St. Augustine Beach,[25] St. Petersburg,[45] Tallahassee,[27] Tampa,[25] Tequesta,[46] Venice,[47] West Palm Beach,[25] Wellington[48] and Wilton Manors[49] prohibit discrimination in employment for sexual orientation and gender identity in both the private and public sector.

Sarasota County,[50] Cape Coral,[51] Miami Shores[52] and Port St. Lucie[52] prohibit discrimination in employment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in the public sector only.

Hypoluxo,[53] Juno Beach,[53] Jupiter,[53] Palm Beach Gardens[53] and Royal Palm Beach[53] prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in both the private and public sector.

Coral Gables,[52] Fort Lauderdale,[27] Hialeah[43] and Hollywood[23] prohibit discrimination in employment for sexual orientation in the public sector only.

Gender identity and expression[edit]

LGBT flag map of Florida

In order for transgender people to change their legal gender in Florida, they must submit an application and affidavit to amend their birth certificate, an affidavit from a physician stating that they have completed sex reassignment surgery in accordance with the appropriate medical procedures, and the payment of the amendment fee.[54]

Hate crime laws[edit]

Florida's hate crimes law covers hate crimes based on sexual orientation, but not gender identity.[55][56][56][57]

Conversion therapy[edit]

On September 3, 2015, State Representative David Richardson filed a bill to ban the use of conversion therapy on LGBT minors.[58] The bill was introduced to the Florida Legislature on January 12, 2016. However, it died in a House subcommittee on March 11, 2016.[59] A similar bill died in 2017.[60]

Since July 2016, the Florida Department of Children and Families has prohibited facility staff from attempting to change or discourage a child's sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.[61]

According to a poll conducted in April 2017, 71% of Floridians supported banning conversion therapy for minors, 11% were against banning it and 18% were uncertain.[62][63]

Local bans[edit]

Memorials left on the fence of the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

As of March 2018, several cities and counties within Florida have passed their own bans on conversion therapy on minors, namely Miami Beach,[64][65] Wilton Manors,[66] Miami,[67] North Bay Village,[68] West Palm Beach,[69] Bay Harbor Islands,[70] Lake Worth,[71] El Portal, Key West, Boynton Beach,[72] Tampa,[73] Delray Beach,[74] Riviera Beach,[75] Wellington,[76] Greenacres, Boca Raton, Oakland Park,[77] Palm Beach County,[78] Gainesville,[79] and Broward County.[80] Conversion therapy bans have also been proposed or pending in other cities, for example in Sarasota[81] and St. Petersburg.[73]

Public opinion[edit]

A 2017 Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) poll found that 61% of Florida residents supported same-sex marriage, while 30% were opposed. 9% were undecided. Additionally, 71% supported an anti-discrimination law covering sexual orientation and gender identity. 22% were against. The PRRI also found that 62% were against allowing public businesses to refuse to serve LGBT people due to religious beliefs, while 31% supported such religiously-based refusals.[82]

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes (Since 2003)
Equal age of consent Yes (Since 2003)
Anti-discrimination laws for sexual orientation No/Yes (Varies by jurisdiction)
Anti-discrimination laws for gender identity or expression No/Yes (Varies by jurisdiction)
Same-sex marriages Yes (Since 2014)
Recognition of same-sex couples Yes (Since 2014)
Stepchild adoption by same-sex couples Yes (Since 2010)
Joint adoption by same-sex couples Yes (Since 2010)
Right to change legal gender Yes
Lesbian, gay and bisexual people allowed to serve openly in the military Yes (Since 2011)
Transgender people allowed to serve openly in the military Yes (Since 2018)
Conversion therapy banned on minors No/Yes (Varies by jurisdiction)
Access to IVF for lesbians Yes
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples Yes[83]
MSMs allowed to donate blood No/Yes (Since 2015; one year deferral period)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Duval, John P. Compilation of the public acts of the Legislative Council of the Territory of Florida, passed prior to 1840. Tallahassee: Samuel S. Sibley, Printer, 1839. Sections 40–42 of "An Act relating to Crimes and Misdemeanors, 1839, p. 120
  2. ^ Franklin v. State, Florida Supreme Court, December 17, 1971, accessed July 14, 2011
  3. ^ Turbe, Laura A. "Florida's Inconsistent Use of the Best Interests of the Child Standard," 33 Stetson L. Rev. 369 (2003–2004), accessed July 16, 2011, pp. 377–381. Archived June 21, 2010, at the Wayback Machine. See footnote 34, p. 374.
  4. ^ New York Times: "Supreme Court Strikes Down Texas Law Banning Sodomy," June 26, 2003, accessed May 24, 2011
  5. ^ Florida Statutes 2014, Official Internet Site of the Florida Legislature, accessed January 3, 2015 The statute reads: "800.02 Unnatural and lascivious act. — A person who commits any unnatural and lascivious act with another person commits a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083. A mother's breastfeeding of her baby does not under any circumstance violate this section."
  6. ^ "Askew signs bill to ban gay marriage". Boca Raton News. June 9, 1977. Retrieved February 15, 2013. 
  7. ^ "Initiative Information - Florida Marriage Protection Amendment" (PDF). Florida Department of State, Division of Elections. February 6, 2005. Retrieved November 5, 2008. 
  8. ^ Snow, Justin (August 21, 2014). "Federal judge rules Florida same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional". Metro Weekly. Retrieved August 21, 2014. 
  9. ^ Florida governor signs bill allowing couples to shack up
  10. ^ Unmarried Couples Shacking Up, No Longer Breaking The Law
  11. ^ SB 498: Repeal of a Prohibition on Cohabitation
  12. ^ Shacking Up: Florida Legislature Repeals Cohabitation Ban
  13. ^ Sanlo, Ronni L. ''Unheard Voices: The Effects of Silence on Lesbian and Gay Educators'', Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing, 1999, p. 14. Retrieved November 2, 2013. 
  14. ^ a b Kwall, Showers; Barack, P.A. (2008-03-26). "The Florida Civil Rights Act, June 6, 2013". Retrieved 2013-11-02. 
  15. ^ "In a Six-to-Six Vote, Federal Appeals Court Declines to Reconsider Decision Upholding Florida's Anti-Gay Adoption Law" Archived 2006-05-15 at the Wayback Machine., American Civil Liberties Union in Florida, press release, July 22, 2004
  16. ^ Victor Manuel Ramos (October 22, 2010). "Florida won't challenge end to gay adoption ban". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved November 2, 2013. 
  17. ^ Johnson, Chris (March 12, 2015). "Fla. House approves bill to repeal gay adoption ban". Washington Blade. Retrieved April 15, 2015. 
  18. ^ Cotterell, Bill (April 14, 2015). "Florida Senate votes to remove gay adoption ban". Tallahassee Democrat. Retrieved April 15, 2015. 
  19. ^ "Gay adoption ban stricken from Florida laws after 4 decades". The Tampa Tribune. 11 June 2015. 
  20. ^ Gay adoption ban stricken from Florida laws after four decades
  21. ^ Phillips, Anna (May 17, 2016). "Florida will list both names of same-sex couples on birth certificates". Tampa Bay Times. 
  23. ^ a b c d e Discrimination Equality Florida
  24. ^ Watkins, Morgan (August 13, 2013). "County adds sexual orientation to its human rights ordinance". The Gainesville Sun. Retrieved August 14, 2013. 
  25. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p "Cities and Counties with Non-Discrimination Ordinances that Include Gender Identity". Human Rights Campaign. Retrieved May 25, 2013. 
  26. ^ Fla. county adds sexual orientation, gender identity to human rights ordinance LGBTQ Nation
  27. ^ a b c d "Florida Cities & Counties with Nondiscrimination Laws". University of Central Florida. Retrieved January 5, 2013. 
  28. ^ "Victory: Orange County Passes LGBT Protections". Equality Florida. November 23, 2010. Retrieved March 28, 2012. 
  29. ^ Osceola County Votes to Protect LGBT Community from Workplace, Housing and Public Accommodations Discrimination
  30. ^ "Pinellas Commission passes protections for transgender people". Tampa Bay Times. August 20, 2013. Retrieved August 21, 2013. 
  31. ^ "Atlantic Beach unanimously passes Human Rights Ordinance". First Coast News. August 11, 2014. 
  32. ^ a b 3 Florida cities receive perfect score for LGBT anti-discrimination policies
  33. ^ "Delray Beach Unanimously Passes LGBT-Inclusive Civil Rights Ordinance". New Times Broward-Palm Beach. July 8, 2015. 
  34. ^ Joseph, Chris (May 19, 2015). "Greenacres Enacts LGBT-Inclusive Civil Rights Ordinance". New Times Broward-Palm Beach. 
  35. ^ Haverhill, Fla. Protects LGBT Town Employees
  36. ^ Justice, Kent & Piggot, Jim (February 14, 2016). "Supporters cheer as Jacksonville City Council passes HRO expansion". WJXT. 
  37. ^ "Pro-Business Coalition Congratulates the Village of Wellington and Town of Lake Clarke Shores for Becoming Florida's 23rd and 24th Municipalities to Pass Anti-Discrimination Measures". Florida businesses for a competitive workforce. September 16, 2015. 
  38. ^ "Employee Handbook A" (PDF). City of Largo. Retrieved March 22, 2012. Any verbal, physical, or visual conduct that belittles, demeans, denigrates, or shows hostility toward an individual or group based on [...] gender identity or expression, or similar characteristic or circumstance is prohibited. 
  39. ^ Leesburg passes LGBT anti-discrimination law Archived 2015-06-17 at the Wayback Machine.
  40. ^ "Mascotte approves measure to stop LGBT discrimination". November 2, 2015. Retrieved November 4, 2015. 
  41. ^ "Neptune Beach council amends city personnel policy so it protects LGBT employees". The Florida Times-Union. June 2, 2014. Retrieved June 5, 2014. 
  42. ^ Orlando Unanimously Approves Transgender Non-Discrimination Protections
  43. ^ a b Municipal Equality Index 2015
  44. ^ Sarasota Unanimously Passes Measure Adding Transgender Protections
  46. ^ "Application for Employment". Village of Tequesta. March 16, 2011. Retrieved March 22, 2012. It is the policy of the Village to conduct recruitment and selection in an affirmative manner to provide equal employment opportunity to all applicants and to prohibit discrimination because of [...] gender identity or expression [permanent dead link]
  47. ^ "Venice Votes Unanimously to Protect LGBT Community". Equality Florida. March 28, 2012. Retrieved March 28, 2012. 
  48. ^ "Wellington Unanimously Passes LGBT-Inclusive Civil Rights Ordinance". New Times Broward-Palm Beach. Retrieved November 19, 2015. 
  49. ^ "Personnel and Safety Rules and Regulations" (PDF). City of Wilton Manors. October 2011. Retrieved March 22, 2012. 
  50. ^ Sarasota County: Affirmative Action / Equal Employment Opportunity Archived 2013-01-16 at the Wayback Machine.
  51. ^ 2014 MEI report
  52. ^ a b c Municipal Equality Index 2016
  53. ^ a b c d e "Florida – Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law and Documentation of Discrimination" (PDF). UCLA School of Law. September 2009. Retrieved January 5, 2013. 
  54. ^ Florida National Center for Transgender Equality
  55. ^ The 2016 Florida Statutes; MISCELLANEOUS CRIMES
  56. ^ a b The 2016 Florida Statutes; CRIMINAL GANG ENFORCEMENT AND PREVENTION
  57. ^ Human Resources Campaign: Florida Hate Crimes Law Archived 2013-05-04 at the Wayback Machine., accessed June 6, 2013.
  58. ^ Rosica, Jim (September 4, 2015). "Bill would ban 'conversion therapy' for gay teens". Florida Politics. 
  59. ^ FL H0137 | 2016 | Regular Session
  60. ^ HB 273: Conversion Therapy
  61. ^ DCF reinstates protections for LGBT youth Orlando Seninel
  62. ^ New Poll Shows 71% Of Floridians Support Conversion Therapy Ban For Minors
  63. ^ 71% of Floridians think conversion therapy for minors should be illegal, bills to prohibit it stalled in Legislature
  64. ^ "Miami Beach says no more conversion therapy for youths under 18". Miami Herald. June 8, 2016. 
  65. ^ Ramos, Lisann (June 10, 2016). "Miami Beach Bans Conversion Therapy For Minors". Health News Florida. 
  66. ^ 10/13/2016 Regular City Commission Meeting
  67. ^ City of Miami Commission votes to ban conversion therapy!
  69. ^ West Palm Bans Conversion Therapy
  70. ^ TOWN OF BAY HARBOR ISLANDS November 14, 2016 AGENDA
  71. ^ A Unanimous Vote Bans Conversion Therapy in Lake Worth
  72. ^ Boynton Beach Bans Conversion Therapy On Minors
  73. ^ a b As Tampa unanimously passes anti-gay conversion "therapy" ban, St. Pete lays groundwork for its own
  74. ^ Delray Beach Joins Growing Number of Cities To Ban Conversion Therapy
  75. ^ Conversion therapy for LGBTQ youth banned in Riviera Beach
  76. ^ Councilman flips vote, but Wellington bans conversion therapy 3-2
  77. ^ Oakland Park Bans Conversion Therapy
  78. ^ Palm Beach County is first county in Florida to ban conversion therapy
  79. ^ Gainesville leaders ban conversion therapy
  80. ^ "Broward County bans gay conversion therapy on minors". Local 10. January 9, 2018. 
  81. ^ "Should Conversion Therapy be Banned in Sarasota?". March 22, 2018. 
  82. ^ PRRI: American Values Atlas 2017
  83. ^ Explaining commercial surrogacy in Florida