With the recent lifting of the stay on gay marriage in Florida, many homosexual couples flocked to their local county courthouses to tie the knot on January 6. Judge Hinkle had declared unconstitutional the state referendum passed by voters in 2008 which had declared only heterosexual marriage to be valid in Florida. He then immediately issued a stay on his ruling pending an appeal to the Eleventh Circuit. The case decided by Hinkle involved gay couples who wished to marry. But the issue of the legality of gay marriage also affected another group of people, namely gay couples who had married out of state and were seeking a divorce in Florida courts. With the legalization of gay marriage came also the legalization of gay divorce.
There have been at least three divorce cases involving gay marriages or civil unions which had been entered into in other states but had been placed on hold due to the legal ambiguity over the status of gay marriage in Florida. These couples had relocated to Florida and could not seek a divorce in the states in which they had originally married because of residency requirements in those states.
The Gay Marriage Battles
This legal limbo over gay marriage had resulted from the flurry of court cases challenging the state statute banning such unions. Several courts that found the ban unconstitutional still did not wish to give a green light to gay marriage while appeals were pending in state and federal courts. However, in November Judge Hinkle, believing it to be unfair to force homosexual couples to wait to marry beyond a defined time period, ruled that his stay would lift automatically on January 5, even if the Eleventh Circuit had not ruled on the appeal. As it stands now, the state is complying with Judge Hinkle’s order, and gay couples can now divorce as well as marry in Florida. However, there may be one more upcoming twist in the plot. The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to accept an appeal from the Sixth Circuit in a case upholding gay marriage bans from four states. This is the only federal appellate that upheld a state ban. If the high court agrees with the Sixth Circuit, that could undermine the other circuit courts’ opinions. The Court is expected to issue a decision in June.
It is unclear how many homosexual couples there are in Florida. The 2010 census listed 50,000 same-sex couples, but it is unknown how many are married. It is estimated that, based on what has happened in other states, Florida can expect around 25,000 gay weddings over the next three years. Since gay marriage is relatively new, reliable statistics are difficult to come by on gay divorce. Many jurisdictions do not even indicate the sex of the parties in their divorce papers.
The bottom line is, after years of political and judicial wrangling, it is now legal for homosexuals to marry and divorce in Florida. If you have any questions about Florida marriage or divorce law, James S. Cunha, Esq. is a Divorce Attorney in West Palm Beach with many years of experience assisting individuals with their divorce or family law matters. The Law Offices of James S. Cunha, P.A. represents clients throughout West Palm Beach, Palm Beach Gardens, Lake Worth, Jupiter, Boynton Beach, Boca Raton in Palm Beach County, Delray Beach, Martin, Okeechobee, St. Lucie, Broward, Hendry, and Miami-Dade. Contact us today at (561) 429-3924, or toll free at 1 (800) 558-1227.