Politics Unusual: Floridians Officially Join the Fight for Marriage Equality
First Utah, then Oklahoma, now Florida?
Following on the heals of Marriage Equality victories in the unlikely states of Utah and Oklahoma, yesterday, six same sex couples filed suit along with The Equality Florida Institute seeking the right to marry in the Sunshine State. It was announced during a press conference from the MDGLCC that six South Florida couples, like couples in many of the 33 states* where LGBT couples are barred from walking down the isle, are willing to take on the discriminatory laws and fight for the right to have their family recognized by the state.
The couples are from Miami and the surrounding area. Four of the couples are raising children, and another couple has an adult child and two grandchildren. The couples are: Catherina Pareto and Karla Arguello; Dr. Juan Carlos Rodriguez and David Price; Vanessa and Melanie Alenier; Todd and Jeff Delmay; Summer Greene and Pamela Faerber; and Don Price Johnston and Jorge Isaias Diaz. They are represented by the law firm Carlton Fields Jorden Burt, attorney Elizabeth F. Schwartz, attorney Mary B. Meeks and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.
Here is a little more about these couples that will hopefully bring the right to marry to all LGBT Floridians.
Catherina Pareto and Karla Arguello
Catherina Pareto and Karla Arguello have been together for 14 years. Catherina owns and operates a financial planning firm. Karla is a stay-at-home mother to their 15-month-old son.
Dr. Juan Carlos Rodriguez and David Price
Dr. Juan Carlos Rodriguez and David Price have been together for nearly 18 years. Juan Carlos is a physician specializing in pulmonary medicine. David is the practice manager for Juan Carlos’s medical practice. They have twins, a boy and a girl, who are three years old.
Said Juan Carlos: “David and I are devoted to our children. We are a family in every way, except that Florida will not allow us to marry. Being a doctor, I see people and families in crisis all the time. In those situations, family and the legal protections that come with it are critical. It pains David and me to be denied a basic safety net of legal protections.”
Vanessa and Melanie Alenier
Vanessa and Melanie Alenier have been together for eight years. Vanessa is the assistant general manager of a national trade show and special event service provider. Melanie is an insurance agent. They have a 5-year-old son together.
Said Vanessa: “Melanie and I have worked so hard to build and protect our family, but nothing can come close to matching the protections that marriage provides. Our family is in need of those protections just like other families. We want our son to understand that his family is secure and just as respected as any other family part of our community here in Florida.”
Todd and Jeff Delmay
Todd and Jeff Delmay have been together for 11 years. Todd and Jeff own and operate Delmay and Partners, a company that provides housing services for large events. They have one son, who is three years old.
Said Jeff: “Like all parents, making sure that our son is safe and secure is our top priority. Unfortunately, because the State of Florida will not allow us to get married we cannot provide the level of protections that opposite-sex married couples are able to give to their children. We [also] want the opportunity to celebrate our love and commitment to one another in a wedding ceremony and have it mean something, which the state is currently denying us.”
Summer Greene and Pamela Faerber
Summer Greene and Pamela Faerber have been together for 25 years. Summer is a real estate agent. Pamela is a portrait artist. Summer and Pamela raised Pamela’s daughter from a prior marriage and now have two grandchildren, ages 10 and 17.
Don Price Johnston and Jorge Isaias Diaz
Don Price Johnston and Jorge Isaias Diaz have been in a committed relationship for a year and recently got engaged. Don is an office manager at a Miami law firm, and Jorge is a paralegal at a Miami law firm.
Said Jorge: “Both Don and I have very strong ties to Florida and cannot imagine getting married anywhere else. If we could marry, we would be legally recognized as a family and have all the same legal protections as others.”
Joining the couples in the lawsuit is the Equality Florida Institute, the state’s largest civil rights organization dedicated to securing full equality for Florida’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. Nadine Smith, the CEO of Equality Florida Institute said of the lawsuit: “[…] The majority of Floridians stand with us as we take this historic step toward marriage equality in the Sunshine State. These couples have been embraced by their families and communities, but every day, Florida laws are denying them the protections and dignity that every family deserves. These harmful laws are outdated and out of step. It is time for all families in our state to have full equality under the law.”
The plaintiffs hope that Florida will continue the trend of unlikely states where courts are overturning laws and constitutional bans against marriage equality. It was just the end of December of 2013 when it was announced that Utah’s constitutional ban was in fact unconstitutional. Couples there immediately began tying the knot, only to be stopped days later by an emergency injunction by the United States Supreme Court which ruled halt marriages temporarily while the appellate process takes place. At least 1000 couples were able to get married in the short time it was allowed in Utah even though the governor of the state has said that the marriages would NOT be recognized by the state. US Attorney General Eric Holder has vowed the contrary, letting the couples know that the federal government and the IRS will recognize their marriages.
In mid January U.S. District Judge Terence Kern ruled that Oklahoma’s ban on marriage equality is unconstitutional. His ruling is stayed pending appeal, meaning marriages will not occur immediately in the Sooner State.
2013 was an amazing year for equality in our great country; hopefully 2014 will be even better, especially for LGBT residents of Florida. This lawsuit is certainly a step in the right direction. As we here at Hotspots have pointed out many times, Florida has the 2nd largest LGBT population nearly 1 million of us calling the state home. Combine this with an estimated 4 million LGBT visitors expected in the sunshine state this year, and you can imagine the economic impact that marriage equality could have in our state. Forget Vegas, a ruling in our favor could make Florida THE place to come for a wedding. Even if every wedding doesn’t feature “Here comes the Bride” or if there is no groom to carry the bride over the threshold, love is love and all love is equal. Let’s just hope the judge feels the same way.