Marriage is back in the news in Florida after Tuesday morning’s announcement that groups are coming together to challenge the state law barring same-sex marriage.
In a press conference at the LGBT Visitors Center in South Beach, six same-sex couples announced they are filing a lawsuit seeking the freedom to marry. The couples are all from South Florida, longtime partners and, in many cases, have raised children together.
Equality Florida Institute hosted the press conference in partnership with the National Center for Lesbian Rights. Of the six couples, three are gay men and three are lesbians.
“Today the majority of Floridians stand with us as we take this historic step toward marriage equality in the Sunshine State,” said Nadine Smith, CEO of Equality Florida Institute. “These couples have been embraced by their families and communities, but every day, Florida laws are denying them the protections and dignity that every family deserves. These harmful laws are outdated and out of step.”
Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage in 2008. Lawyers for the couples argue Florida’s laws barring same-sex couples from marriage violate the United States Constitution by denying them legal protections and equal dignity that having the freedom to marry provides.
“We’re are proud to stand here today,” said Summer Greene, a real estate agent who lives in Plantation with her partner of 25 years, Pamela Faerber. The women raised Faerber’s daughter from a previous marriage and now have two grandchildren, ages 10 and 17.
“As Pam and I get older, it worries me that we do not have the legal protections that marriage provides in case one of us becomes ill or dies,” said Greene.
Joining Greene and Faerber as plantiffs in the lawsuit are Catherina Pareto and Karla Arguello; Dr. Juan Carlos Rodriguez and David Price; Vanessa and Melanie Alenier; Todd and Jeff Delmay; and Don Price Johnston and Jorge Isaias Diaz. They are represented by the law firm Carlton Fields Jorden Burt, attorney Elizabeth F. Schwartz, attorney Mary B. Meeks and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR).
NCLR legal director Shannon Minter said Florida’s laws are causing great harm to families.
“The law should support families, not make it harder for committed couples to support one another and protect their children,” Minter said.
In response to today’s lawsuit, John Stemberger, President of the Florida Family Policy Council issued the following statement:
“Sixty-two percent of Floridians have decisively spoken on this issue. Gay activists cannot win in the marketplace of ideas, so they have resorted to trying to find renegade courts who have little respect for the rule of law to create social change that would never happen through the people or their elected representatives.”
Stemberger’s Orlando-based organization led the effort to ban same-sex marriage in Florida in 2008 and dismissed the Equality Florida Institute lawsuit as a plea for attention. “Today’s lawsuit is nothing more than a publicity stunt,” Stemberger wrote. “Filed in Miami, it represents ‘forum shopping’ in the most liberal legal venue in the state. However, we are confident that Florida’s Attorney General Pam Bondi will provide a vigorous defense of Florida’s long held law and in doing so will expose the radical views and overreaching legal positions set forth in today’s lawsuit.”
Currently, 16 states in the U.S. have legalized same-sex marriage.