Rejecting arguments by Attorney General Pam Bondi's office, an appeals court Friday ruled that a same-sex couple married in Massachusetts can get a divorce in Florida.
The ruling by the 2nd District Court of Appeal involves Danielle Brandon-Thomas and Krista Brandon-Thomas, who were married in 2012 and subsequently moved to Florida.
Danielle Brandon-Thomas filed for a divorce in October 2013, with her spouse opposing the petition. A Lee County circuit judge dismissed the petition, pointing to a state law known as the "Defense of Marriage Act," which says same-sex marriages will not be recognized in Florida.
During the appeal, the attorney general's office and Krista Brandon-Thomas cited the Defense of Marriage Act and a voter-approved state constitutional amendment that defined marriage as being between "one man and one woman." But a three-judge panel of the appeals court cited the U.S. Constitution and said Bondi's office and Krista Brandon-Thomas had not "suggested what legitimate government interest would be served by precluding a Florida court from exercising jurisdiction" over the divorce proceeding.
"The practical impact of the trial court's order is that a validly married couple, albeit of the same sex, cannot access a Florida court to undo their marriage,'' said the ruling by Chief Judge Craig Villanti and joined by judges Darryl Casanueva and Edward LaRose. "The couple's financial affairs remain intertwined, and their joint assets, if any, are not easily transferred. The trial court's order impedes the flow of assets and capital. Particularly significant, the welfare and stability of a child parented by this couple remains in limbo. The fact that a child is involved implicates Florida's strong public policy to protect children by determining custody matters in accordance with the best interests of the child. Our decision today protects the parties' rights of access to the court for dissolution of their marriage and an opportunity to be heard regarding their claimed rights to their assets and the child."
The case will go back to circuit court for consideration of the divorce petition.
From our media partner News Service of Florida