With the United States Supreme Court handing down its opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges,1 the citizens of Florida now have a firm answer to the question, “Is gay marriage legal?” The answer is “yes.” Same-sex couples “may exercise the fundamental right to marry in all States.”2 Further, “there is no lawful basis for a State to refuse to recognize a lawful same-sex marriage performed in another State on the ground of its same-sex character.”3 Thus, same-sex couples in Florida are guaranteed the right to marry and divorce by the United States Constitution. The provisions of Florida’s Statutes and Constitution, which have been previously discussed (link to prior entries), can no longer be used to prevent same-sex individuals from exercising this right.4 The United States Supreme Court has firmly established that all gay Floridians are entitled to the same benefits of marriage/divorce as heterosexual Floridians. All of Florida’s county clerks are now required to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and no Florida court may refuse to grant same-sex spouses a divorce on the basis that Florida law does not recognize same-sex marriages.
The decision in Obergefell v. Hodges is obviously one of great historical and legal importance. With this decision comes a major nationwide change in the status quo and resistance some to this change. While it is anticipated that gay Floridians will no longer have trouble obtaining a marriage license or dissolving their marriages, it is not far-fetched to expect that some government employees/officials unfamiliar with the new law of the land or otherwise personally opposed to same-sex marriage may still hinder same-sex couples from exercising their newly established rights. Additionally, bureaucratic problems may arise from this change in the law. Consequently, gay Floridians should understand that they may still face some unique “bumps in the road” when dealing with matrimonial issues and should consider contacting an attorney if they encounter resistance to the exercise of their rights.
1. Obergefell v. Hodges, 14-556, 2015 WL 2473451 (U.S. 2015).
2. Id. at *23.
4. The laws which previously prevented same-sex couples from exercising the right to marry and divorce are Art. I, § 27, Fla. Const., § 741.212, Fla. Stat. (2014), and § 741.04(1), Fla. Stat. (2014).