Marriage Equality Starts Early January

By the end of November the landscape began to change for sexual equality, and even the conservative panhandle of the Sunshine State started to warm to the idea of passing legislative protections for Floridians who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. So much so, the bill was brought on the top of the ticket, by a republican, Rep. Holly Raschein of Key Largo, and her democrat colleague Sen. Joseph Abruzzo of Boynton Beach. Raschein filled her proposed legislation, House Bill 33, and Abruzzo, Senate Bill 156.

The importance of these two bills aligning together to enact new laws cannot be understated. In fact, it represents the overall shift in attitude toward equal protections for the LGBT community. These bills aimed to provide lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals equal protection in housing, workplace, and public accommodations. Called the Florida Competitive Workforce Act, it extended protections already given to Floridians by race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability or marital status. If passed, about 536,000 LGBT individuals in the state will have the same legal protections as other minority groups.

Though the bills have been filled, it’s not necessarily a slam-dunk the measures will pass. However, with public sentiment changing to meet with the modern era, it’s more probable that other lawmakers will join in the effort to bring these basic legal protections to what’s already considered a minority group. Other minority groups, as stated, already have legal protections and it seems that the Florida legislature is on-track to embrace these. Lawmakers are in the midst of such movement because of recent court decisions.

Marriage Equality to Begin January 2015

Just this week, on Wednesday, December 3rd, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals took another step to bring marriage equality to the state of Florida. The court denied the state’s motion for a stay approved through a District Court ruling. Legalese aside, this simply lifts the ban on same-sex marriage in the state of Florida. Meanwhile, another case, involving a same-sex divorce, remains part of the equation.

“We are thrilled that the 11th Circuit has denied the state’s request to delay marriages in Florida. Every day of delay is another day of harm experienced by thousands of loving and committed same-sex couples in Florida. Now it’s time to break out the wedding bells,” said Nadine Smith, CEO of Equality Florida.

Opponents of the decision do have the right to petition the U.S. Supreme Court to extend the stay the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals lifted, however, the jurists in Washington, D.C., have not yet shown willingness to accept such requests and are unlikely to do so with this case. In late November, the Pensacola city council voted 8 to 1 to allow for a domestic partnership registry. Since the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled not to extend the stay on the strike down of the same-sex marriage ban, it’s now unlikely the state Supreme Court will hear any cases on the matter.

The stay does remain in place, with an expiration date of January 5, 2015. Because the stay was not extended by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, it will come to an official end on the fifth of January in the New Year, effectively ending the statewide ban on same-sex marriage, bringing one more state into the effort for marriage equality throughout the United States.