Federal Court Orders Florida To Include Surviving Same-Sex Spouses on Death Certificates

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In a new case from Lambda Legal, a federal court issued a decision requiring Florida to acknowledge whether a deceased individual was married to a same-sex partner and list said partner as a surviving spouse. 

Lambda Legal clients Hal Birchfield and Paul Mocko are two gay widowers who, when their spouses died, were not listed on their Florida death certificates as being married. 

“We are thrilled that the court has put an end to the way the State of Florida was erasing whole lives spent together when it refused to issue corrected death certificates recognizing married same-sex couples unless the surviving spouse obtained a court order,” Karen Loewy, Counsel for Lambda Legal said in a statement. “Hal and Paul and other Florida widows and widowers like them suffered at the hands of the state all because their spouses died before the state’s marriage ban was struck down.” 

The decision was released Thursday, March 23 by the U.S. District Court for the North District of Florida. 

“The state of Florida discriminated against us and disrespected our relationship in life and even in [my spouse] James’ death,” Hal Birchfield said. “But this decision will ensure that I and all the other surviving same-sex spouses will finally have accurate death certificates that honor our relationships.” 

Loewy added, “Hal, Paul, and other surviving same-sex spouses in Florida can’t get their loved ones back, but now all Florida surviving same-sex spouses will have the respect and dignity of accurate death certificates that recognize their relationships.”