Considerations for Newlywed Same-Sex Couples in Florida
Same-sex couples across the State of Florida will be able to procure marriage licenses on January 6, 2015. However, couples should understand that gay marriage in Florida is not yet a settled issue. While this date will certainly be a milestone as well as a day of great joy and celebration for many Floridians, there are some legal considerations which should be given thought by same-sex couples looking to “tie the knot.” This post will not go into the legal details surrounding the decision of Florida’s clerks to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but will simply outline a few issues for couples to consider this week.
First, it has been announced that clerks in all of Florida’s counties will be issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but several county courthouses are no longer performing ceremonies to solemnize any marriages. Thus, couples will be able to obtain marriage licenses wherever they wish, but some may need to find their own officiants to finalize their marriage rather than depend on their local courthouse to do so. There is no indication that courthouse wedding ceremonies will cease to be performed in Alachua County, but ceremonies have recently become unavailable in the surrounding counties of Baker, Clay, Marion, and Union. Couples who intend to be married at a courthouse should confirm whether their local courthouse is still conducting ceremonies.
Second, couples should be aware that the potential for Florida’s bans on same-sex marriages to be upheld still exists. Several suits are working their way through both state and federal court systems. Though the legal momentum certainly seems to be in favor of gay marriage in Florida, a higher Florida or federal court could still decide to uphold Florida’s prohibitions. Further, certain groups are currently seeking to halt the issuance of licenses. Consequently, decisions adverse to gay marriage may still be rendered. Notwithstanding the merits of any position or the probability of success of any given action, same-sex couples wishing to marry in this state should keep such a possibility in mind and be prepared for it.
Finally, those who have already entered into a same-sex marriage in another state or newly wed couples who wish to obtain benefits granted to married couples should apply as any couple would, but keep in mind that there may be resistance to the granting of spousal benefits until higher court opinions on the validity of Florida’s same-sex marriage bans have been issued. Competent counsel should be consulted by any couple denied marital benefits on the basis of Florida’s same-sex marriage bans.
The impending issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Florida doubtlessly puts the state’s prohibition of gay marriage on life support. Additionally, existing gay marriages may be more difficult for any Florida court to refuse to recognize. However, until final resolution comes from higher courts, same-sex spouses should be aware that the bans are not quite dead yet and understand that they may still have to wait for these issues to resolve through the courts or the legislature.