Armstrong v. Brenner

(Parallel with Secretary, Florida Dept. of Health v. Grimsley)

What's Happening:

On January 6, the freedom to marry took effect statewide in Florida even as an appeal proceeds to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in a federal marriage ruling, issued in August 2014 from U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle. Previously, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit and the United States Supreme Court had denied requests from the state of Florida to extend the stay.

Now, as the federal marriage case makes its way up through the courts, Floridians across the state will continue to do the work of having conversations about why marriage matters and creating a climate for final victory at the 11th Circuit.

Case Background:

Grimsley and Albu v. Scott was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida on March 13, 2014 on behalf of SAVE, an LGBT organization in Miami and eight married same-sex couples seeking respect for their marriages legally performed in other states. Brenner v. Scott was filed by private counsel on March 6, 2014 on behalf of a same-sex couple who married in Canada and now live in Tallahassee. The couple was seeking legal respect in Florida for their marriage license, and named Gov. Rick Scott and FL Attorney General Bondi in their lawsuit. Later, an unmarried same-sex couple was added as a plaintiff couple in Brenner v. Scott

On April 30, the ACLU of Florida filed a motion for preliminary injunction asking the court to immediately stop enforcing laws barring legal respect for marriages between same-sex couples, adding a recently-widowed Ft. Myers woman, Arlene Goldberg, as a plaintiff in the lawsuit. 

The lead plaintiffs in Grimsley are Sloan Grimsley and Joyce Albu, who work as a firefighter and a consultant assisting parents of children with developmental disorders, respectively. The women have been together for nine years, married in New York in 2011, and are raising a 2-year-old child together. The plaintiffs in Brenner include one married couple, James Brenner and Charles Jones, who married in Canada in September 2009 and have been together since 1988; and one unmarried couple. 

On August 21, 2014, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle ruled in favor of the freedom to marry and respect for marriages legally performed between same-sex couples in other states in these two federal marriage cases. The ruling was stayed until 91 days after action from the U.S. Supreme Court, although Judge Hinkle also ordered Florida to issue a new death certificate to Arlene Goldberg, whose partner of 47 years, Carol Goldwasser, passed away this year.

On September 4, three defendants in this federal case seeking the freedom to marry in Florida filed an appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.

And on October 6, when the U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari in five federal marriage cases, the countdown to the stay expiration began, with the stay set to expire on January 5. The state of Florida sought extensions from the District Court judge and the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, but both parties denied the request, and in December 2014, the United States Supreme Court also denied the request.  

On December 19, the United States Supreme Court denied the state of Florida's request to extend a stay in this federal case seeking the freedom to marry, meaning that same-sex couples should be able to get marriage licenses starting at the end of the day on January 5, 2015, when the stay is set to expire. Previously, a federal judge (on November 5) and the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals (on December 3) denied the state's request to alter the stay in this ruling.

As same-sex couples begin to marry in Florida, the appeal will proceed to the 11th Circuit, where a favorable ruling would secure the freedom to marry once and for all in Florida and pave the way for marriage in Alabama and Georgia. More than two dozen amici briefs have been filed in support of the freedom to marry from marriage supporters across the state, including more than 200 Faith Leaders, 200 First Responders, and dozens of Florida employers. Read them all here. 

Huntsman v. Heavilin

What's Happening:

On January 5, 2015, Judge Luis Garcia officially declared that the stay on marriage between same-sex couples would expire on January 6, meaning that same-sex couples can get married starting on that day.

The stay expired in the July 17 ruling from Chief Circuit Judge Luis Garcia, which struck down Florida's ban on marriage for same-sex couples in state court, ordering the Monroe County Clerk to stop enforcing Florida's anti-marriage constitutional amendment. The ruling only applied to Monroe County and did not require the state of Florida to respect the marriages of same-sex couples legally performed in other states.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi appealed shortly after the decision, which immediately resulted in a stay on the ruling. The next step was the Florida 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.

Case Background:

On April 2, 2014, private lawyers filed this lawsuit on behalf of a same-sex couple seeking to marry in Florida. The men, who live and work in Key West, have been together for over a decade, and when they were denied a marriage license in Monroe County, they filed their case.

The plaintiffs are Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones, who are celebrating their 11th anniversary this year. Upon filing their case, the men said, "I really feel Monroe County — Key West — if it's going to be done anywhere, it’s going to be done here. We have a history. It's a little more open. We’re going to change it here." Read their full story HERE

On July 7, a circuit judge heard oral arguments in this state case with federal claims.

Pareto v. Ruvin

What's Happening:

On Janary 5, 2015, one day before the stay on marriages between same-sex couples was lifted in a separate federal case, a circuit judge lifted her stay in this case's marriage ruling impacting Miami-Dade County, meaning that same-sex couples were able to get married there starting at 2:00pm.

The stay allowed a July 25, 2014 ruling to take effect. In that ruling, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel struck down Florida's ban on marriage for same-sex couples in state court, ordering the Miami-Dade County Clerk to stop enforcing Florida's anti-marriage constitutional amendment, saying that same-sex couples should be able to receive marriage licenses in Miami-Dade County. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi appealed shortly after the decision, which immediately resulted in a stay on the ruling. The next step is the Florida 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.

Case Background:

On January 21, 2014, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Equality Florida Institute filed a lawsuit in state court with federal claims on behalf of six same-sex couples seeking the freedom to marry in Florida. The lawsuit argues that laws in Florida that restrict marriage to different-sex couples violate the United States Constitution's commitment to equal protection under the law.

The plaintiffs hail from Miami and the surrounding area. They include: Catherina Pareto and Karla Arguello, together for 14 years and raising a young son; Dr. Juan Carlos Rodriguez and David Price, together for 18 years and raising young twins; Vanessa and Melanie Alenier, together for 8 years and raising a child; Todd and Jeff Delmay, together for 11 years and raising a young son; Summer Greene and Pamela Faerber, grandparents who have been together for 25 years; and Don Price Johnston and Jorge Isaias Diaz, who recently got engaged. 

Oral arguments in the case were heard on July 2, 2014 by Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel.

Wall-DeSousa v. Florida Department of Motor Vehicles

What's Happening:

On December 1, 2014, Wall-DeSousa v. Florida Department of Motor Vehicles was filed by private lawyers on behalf of Dan and Scott Wall-DeSousa, who are seeking respect for their out-of-state marriage. The couple was married in New York in 2013, and subsequently changed their names to be hyphenated on their drivers' licenses. Shortly after appearing on a news segment in which they discussed their name change, the DMV threatened to cancel their licenses indefinitely if they did not change them to their names before they were married.

Brassner v. Lade

What's Happening:

On December 8, Circuit Judge Dale Cohen ruled in favor of the freedom to marry.

On September 9, 2014, Circuit Judge Dale Cohen vacated his order in his August 4 decision where he declared Florida's marriage ban unconstitutional and that same-sex couples who legally married in other states must be respected as such in Florida. The ruling was to apply to Broward County, FL, but because of a procedural oversight, the ruling was vacated.

That week, the Florida Attorney General filed a Motion to Intervene in the case, and counsel for the plaintiffs are expected to file a response. 

Case Background:

The case, filed on June 26, 2014, sought respect for one couple's marriage for the purpose of dissolving the union. Because Florida does not grant any legal respect for same-sex couples' relationships, the couple was unable to divorce without first being respected as married.

The motion for declarative judgment and injunctive relief was filed on June 26, 2014 by attorney Nancy Brodzki. In the motion, Brodzki writes: "The constitutional provision specifically purports to prevent the Circuit Courts of this State to recognize a same-sex marriage or civil union, and the Circuit Court must recognize a marriage or civil union in order to dissolve it."

Brandon-Thomas v. Brandon-Thomas

What's Happening:

Briefing before the Florida 2nd District Court of Appeals is complete in this state legal case seeking respect for a marriage performed in another state for the purpose of dissolution. The case is filed by private attorney Luis E. Insignares and is now pending a ruling.

Case Background:

On October 24, 2014, plaintiffs filed a reply brief to the 2nd District Court of Appeals, opposing Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi's arguments against respecting out-of-state marriages between same-sex couples.

In Re Bangor Estate 

What's Happening:

On August 5, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Diana Lewis ruled narrowly in favor of the freedom to marry, declaring that same-sex couples who married in other states must be respected as married in Palm Beach County for the purpose of survivor benefits after a death. The ruling applies specifically to the couple involved in the case and has been appealed by Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. 

Case Background:

W. Jason Simpson, a widower whose husband, Frank Bangor, passed away in March 2014 in Pennsylvania. The couple legally married in Delaware, and when Frank passed away, he left his entire estate, including property he owned in Palm Beach County, Florida, to his husband. Because of Florida law restricting marriage to different-sex couples, Simpson could not inherit the property in Palm Beach County he had been left. The men had been together for 37 years. 

With Judge Lewis' ruling, Simpson will now be included as a personal representative in his husband's estate, and furthermore, declared that Florida's law denying respect to legally married same-sex couples is unconstitutional.

Shaw v. Shaw

What's Happening:

On August 27, 2014, the Second District Court of Appeals in Florida voted en banc to urge the Florida Supreme Court to rule on the freedom to marry in this case seeking respect for a same-sex couple's marriage for the purpose of dissolution. 

Previously, a lower court in Florida had denied the couple the ability to divorce, seeking Florida's marriage ban. In their motion to the FL Supreme Court, the Second District Court of Appeals explained, "We therefore certify that the order on appeal requires immediate resolution by the Florida Supreme Court because the issues pending are of great public importance and will have a great effect on the proper administration of justice throughout the state. ... The issue was whether Florida's ban on same-sex marriage and the prohibition on recognizing such marriages unconstitutionally limits various constitutional guaranties including full faith and credit, access to courts, equal protection, and the right to travel."

Case Background:

On March 17, 2014, a same-sex couple filed a petition for the dissolution of their marriage in Florida. The petition requests recognition for their out-of-state marriage for the purpose of filing the divorce and, additionally, challenges the constitutionality of Florida’s ban on same-sex couples from marrying. A brief hearing occurred on March 27, with additional argument scheduled for April 22.

The uncontested divorce petition was filed in Hillsborough County, Florida Circuit Court on behalf of Mariama Shaw and Keiba Shaw, who married in Massachusetts. Under Florida law, it is unclear whether the plaintiffs' out-of-state marriage can be terminated, because Florida does not respect marriages between same-sex couples.

Dousset v. Florida Atlantic University

What's Happening:

On May 14, 2014, a gay man filed a state lawsuit in the District Court of Appeal for the Fourth District in Florida asking the state to respect his marriage to a man in order to pay "in-state" tuition rates at Florida Atlantic University.

Case Background:

The plaintiff in the case is Gildas Dousset, a student at FAU who legally married his spouse, Paul Rubio, in Massachusetts in 2013. Dousset applied for in-state tuition as the spouse of a Florida resident, but he was denied because the university does not respect his marriage.

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