How a Same-Sex Couple Divorce Furthers Marriage Equality

Four judicial decisions in the past three weeks. That is the pace at which marriage equality is beginning to take hold in the state of Florida. The legal trend began just a few weeks ago and continued on through Monday when Broward Circuit Court Judge Dale Cohen struck down the Sunshine State’s cloudy and ostensibly contradictory law banning same-sex marriage. Then, following the sage discretion of three other jurists, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Diana Lewis also found the state’s ban to be in violation of the United States Constitution.

The rulings in Palm Beach, Broward, Monroe, and Miami-Dade counties all found that said ban cannot be legally withheld as it is not in confluence with the 14th Amendment. That provision states, in-part, “”No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

A Same-Sex Couple Divorce Furthers Marriage Equality

Oddly enough, the very reason for such rulings does not stem from LGBT couples petitioning the courts to enjoy the lawful privileges of marriage, but from a civil union divorce. At the center of that case,Heather Brassner and Megan Lade of Vermont were granted by the Green Mountain State an officially recognized civil union in 2002.

“A fourth judge in Florida has overturned the state’s ban on same-sex marriage in a single county. Tuesday’s ruling by Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Diana Lewis mirrors recent decision in Monroe, Miami-Dade and Broward counties. All found that a 2008 voter-approved constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in the state violates gay residents’ right to equal protection under the law as guaranteed by the 14th Amendment”. —Associated Press via The Tampa Tribune

Though Brassner and Lade are estranged, their mission to see marriage equality come to all states remains fully intact. However, these four rulings, though favorable to same-sex couples, are not the end of the fight to gain marriage equality and Brassner is quite aware of this fact. She expects Pam Bondi, Florida’s Attorney General, to appeal these decisions,“I’m expecting an appeal because if you look at the record, she’s appealed everything so far.”

The Road Ahead for Equal Rights

These judicial decisions do have an impact, though legally, there is not an immediate movement underway. Because an automatic stay is currently in-place as the result of other ongoing cases, the four rulings make for good public relations but not substantial change. That change will come as the cases are resolved, and as other states continue to enact legislation which allows same-sex couples to enjoy the same rights as others do.

For now, it represents a step in the right direction and gives a semblance of hope to the LGBT community. As civil rights groups such as SAVE and the ACLU of Florida have taken real action, filing a lawsuit in a federal court in Tallahassee, seeking to grant the right of marriage to same-sex couples, more pressure is being brought to bear by public sentiment and by other states changing their laws.