Many people have been following a matter that I am involved in, the same sex divorce case in Tampa, Florida. Well, the judge just issued her ruling, and she dismissed the amended petition for dissolution of the parties’ marriage.
In her order, Judge Lee writes the following:
The Petitioner filed her initial Petition for Dissolution of Marriage on January 15, 2014. Thereafter, the parties entered into the collaborative divorce process and successfully completed that process. As a result, the parties voluntarily entered into a Collaborative Marital Settlement Agreement on March 14, 2014. Subsequently, on March 17, 2014, the Petitioner filed her Amended Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and asked the court to accept jurisdiction of the subject matter, dissolve the marriage of the parties, and adopt and incorporate the Collaborative Marital Settlement Agreement into a Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage.
As alleged in the Amended Petition, the parties married …in the State of Massachusetts. The parties are a same-sex couple. While the State of Massachusetts authorizes and recognizes same-sex marriages, by current law the State of Florida does not authorize or recognize such unions.
Specifically, in 2008, Florida citizens amended Article I of the Florida Constitution by voter initiate to provide as follows:
Inasmuch as marriage is the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife, no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized. Art. I, s. 27, Fla. Const.
In 1997, the Florida Legislature passed Florida’s Defense of Marriage Act, which provides as follows:
(1) Marriages between persons of the same sex entered into in any jurisdiction, whether within or outside the State of Florida, the United States, or any other jurisdiction, either domestic or foreign, or any other place or location, or relationships between persons of the same sex which are treated as marriages in any jurisdiction, whether within or outside the State of Florida, the United States, or any other jurisdiction, either domestic or foreign, or any other place or location, are not recognized for any purpose in this state.
(2) The state, its agencies, and its political subdivisions may not give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any state, territory, possession, or tribe of the United States or of any other jurisdiction, either domestic or foreign, or any other place or location respecting either a marriage or relationship not recognized under subsection (1) or a claim arising from such a marriage or relationship.
(3) For purposes of interpreting any state statute or rule, the term “marriage” means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the term “spouse” applies only to a member of such a union. s. 741.121, Fla. Stat. (2013).
Thus, the statute provides that Florida does not recognize, for any purpose, even same-sex marriages that have been recognized in another jurisdiction. s. 741.212(1), Fla. Stat. (2013).
This Court is bound by the provisions of Fla. Stat. s. 741.212. Based on the facts presented in this case, there is no valid marriage to be dissolved under the laws of Florida, and this action must be dismissed. The Court is without jurisdiction to dissolve that which does not exist under law.
It is therefore ORDERED that the Amended Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is DISMISSED.
I know Judge Lee put a lot of thought into her decision, and she made the ruling that she felt she had to under the current state of Florida’s laws.
Nonetheless, the clients are sorely disappointed that they are unable to move on from this chapter of their lives. Imagine that they cannot now marry a person of either sex because they might violate bigamy laws if they attempt to travel outside of Florida (not to mention the federal government already recognizes them as married).
We will appeal this decision, and hopefully in the process we will chip away at Florida’s discriminatory marriage laws, at least for the purposes of divorce.
If you have questions about LGBT family law rights in Florida or the collaborative divorce process, schedule a consultation with The Law Firm of Adam B. Cordover, P.A., at (813) 443-0615 or fill out our contact form.