Fort Lauderdale – Heather Brassner can finally dissolve her marriage, and her divorce represents another victory for marriage equality in the State of Florida.
On Dec. 8, Circuit Court Judge Dale Cohen ruled in favor of Brassner, who had wanted to divorce her estranged spouse for more than four years, but couldn’t do so because the Vermont union wasn’t recognized in Florida.
In his decision, Cohen wrote that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, approved by voters in 2008, violates the due process of equal protection clauses of the United States Constitution. It also states that Florida’s failure to recognize legal out-of-state civil unions, like Brassner’s, violates those same clauses “without any rational basis.”
Brassner first sued the state over the summer because she wanted to legally separate from her former partner, Megan Lade, with whom she entered into a civil union in Vermont in 2002. That was two years before same-sex couples could be legally married anywhere in the country.
Brassner, 41, said that Lade was unfaithful in the marriage four years ago and has since disappeared. That left Brassner in a civil union that was legal in Vermont because both women must sign to dissolve it. Even a private investigator failed to find Lade, which left divorce the only option available for Brassner, who is now in a new relationship.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi opposed the divorcebecause same-sex marriages are not yet legally recognized in Florida.
Judge Cohen, who had thrown out the case earlier in the fall due to a technicality, said in his ruling that change is coming for same-sex couples.
“The tides are turning on the issue of same-sex marriage throughout this country,” he wrote. “To discriminate based on sexual orientation, do deny families equality, to stigmatize children and spouses, to hold some couples less worthy of legal benefits than others based on their sexual orientation, to deny individuals tax credits, marital property rights, the ability to dissolve their unions from other jurisdictions is against all that this country holds dear, as it denies equal citizenship. Marriage is a well-recognized fundamental right, all people should be entitled to enjoy its benefits.”
From our media partner Watermark