On September 27, 2013, a woman in a same-sex union sought to terminate her partnership in Florida state court, in the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit Court for Broward County. Because Florida did not grant legal recognition of same-sex relationships, the petitioner was unable to obtain a divorce ...
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On September 27, 2013, a woman in a same-sex union sought to terminate her partnership in Florida state court, in the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit Court for Broward County. Because Florida did not grant legal recognition of same-sex relationships, the petitioner was unable to obtain a divorce without first being recognized as married. On June 26, 2014, the petitioner filed a motion for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief that challenged the constitutionality of Florida's definition of marriage as the legal union of only one man and one woman. The petitioner, represented by private counsel, claimed that Florida's ban on same-sex marriage, and its refusal to recognize such marriages performed out-of-state, violated the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the U.S. and Florida Constitutions.
The petitioner and the respondent entered into a civil union in Vermont in July 2002. At that time, civil unions were the only form of legal relationship afforded to same-sex couples in Vermont. While there is a process to dissolve civil unions in Vermont, the process requires that both parties sign the requisite forms. Despite diligent search, the petitioner was unable to locate the respondent as their relationship ended many years ago. The petitioner has been a Florida resident for more than 14 years and cannot become a Vermont resident for one year in order to file for a contested dissolution of her civil union. Therefore, there is no adequate remedy at law for the petitioner, except for the State of Florida to grant dissolution of her civil union.
On August 4, 2014, the Court (Judge Dale C. Cohen) granted the petitioner's motion for declaratory judgment. The Court found that Florida's constitutional and statutory ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional because it violated petitioner's fundamental right to marry under the Due Process Clause and discriminated based on sexual orientation, in violation of the Equal Protection Clause. The Court entered an immediate stay of its order pending the outcome of expected appeals of similar cases recently ruled on by courts in neighboring counties. A hearing on the dissolution of the union was scheduled for September 10.
On September 9, 2014, the Court vacated its declaratory judgment order, finding that the petitioner had failed to notice the Office of the Attorney General of the proceedings, in violation of Florida law and the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure. The Court cancelled the previously scheduled hearing but stated that the parties could schedule a rehearing of the petitioner's motion for declaratory judgment after providing proper notice.
On September 16, 2014, the Court granted the State of Florida's motion to intervene in order to defend the State's laws. On October 22, 2014, the State filed a memorandum in opposition to the petitioner's motion for declaratory relief. The case is ongoing. Nate West - 11/22/2014