The Freedom to Marry in Florida

Winning Marriage: January 6, 2015

Same-sex couples began marrying statewide in Florida on January 6, 2015 after the expiration of a stay in U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle’s August 21, 2014 federal ruling in favor of the freedom to marry.

History and the Path to Victory:

  • June 8, 1977: Florida Governor Reubin Askew signs a law prohibiting same-sex couples from getting married or adopting children in Florida.
  • May 29, 1997: Following a landmark court ruling in Hawaii, marriage opponents in Florida push through a state-level version of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. Governor Lawton Chiles allows the bill to become law without his signature.
  • February 25, 2004: Private lawyers file a legal case seeking the freedom to marry in Florida, and a half dozen similar cases are filed throughout the state later in the year. The cases are ultimately unsuccessful, with insufficient public momentum behind the challenges.
  • November 4, 2008: Opponents of the freedom to marry in Florida push through Florida Amendment 2, a constitutional amendment denying same-sex couples the freedom to marry and any legal recognition. The amendment cements clearly discriminatory language into the Florida Constitution.
  • 2004-2014: As Americans nationwide engage in conversations about why marriage matters, national and local advocates in Florida take strides toward increasing understanding of same-sex couples and their families.
  • February 27, 2014: Polling in Florida tracks supermajority support for the freedom to marry at 57%, reflecting the power of the national discussion of why marriage matters.
  • March 13, 2014: Same-sex couples and American Civil Liberties Union file a federal legal case seeking the freedom to marry in Florida, Armstrong v. Brenner. In the same year, several other cases are filed, including several in state court, building momentum for marriage in the courts. Read the initial complaints in Brenner, Pareto and Brassner.
  • July 17, 2014: Chief Circuit Judge Luis Garcia rules in favor of the freedom to marry in Monroe County, FL in Huntsman v. Heavilin. Read the ruling. One week later, on July 25, another state judge strikes down Florida’s marriage ban in Miami-Dade County. Read the ruling. Both decisions are stayed pending appeal.
  • August 21, 2014: U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle rules in favor of the freedom to marry in the Brenner case. Read the ruling. The ruling is stayed until 91 days after action from the U.S. Supreme Court, although Judge Hinkle also orders Florida to issue a new death certificate to Arlene Goldberg, whose partner of 47 years, Carol Goldwasser, passed away in 2014.
  • October 6, 2014: When the U.S. Supreme Court denies 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 seeks extensions from the District Court judge, who denies the request, as well as from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • December 3, 2014: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit denies the state of Florida’s request to extend the stay in Brenner, and the state vows to seek an extension from the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • December 19, 2014: The United States Supreme Court denies marriage opponents’ request for a stay in the Brenner decision, and the freedom to marry is set to take effect on January 6.
  • January 5, 2015: Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel lifts a stay in a pro-marriage ruling from a state court case, Pareto v. Ruvin. The decision applies only to Miami-Dade County, and same-sex couples marry immediately.
  • January 6, 2015:  The freedom to marry takes effect statewide when the stay expires in Brenner. Thousands of same-sex couples at last legally marry.
  • June 26, 2015: The United States Supreme Court rules in favor of the freedom to marry, ending marriage discrimination across the country.

Groups That Actively Worked on Marriage

  • Equality Florida is a statewide education and advocacy organization dedicated to eliminating discrimination based on sexual orientation, race, gender and class.
  • The National Center for Lesbian Rights is one of the nation's leading LGBT legal organizations. NCLR served as co-counsel on Pareto v. Ruvin, one of the cases that brought the freedom to marry to Florida.
  • The ACLU of Florida is the state affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union. ACLU's case Grimsley v. Scott was one of the cases that brought the freedom to marry to Florida.
  • SAVE is an organization working in Miami to end discrimination for LGBT people in Florida. SAVE was a plaintiff in one of the cases that brought the freedom to marry to Florida.
  • Freedom to Marry was the campaign to win marriage for same-sex couples nationwide.