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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Florida Recognizes Same-Sex Marriages, At Least When the Time Comes for Divorce

A same-sex couple were married in Massachusetts in October 2012. They later moved to Florida, and one of the spouses filed a petition for dissolution of marriage in Florida, even though Florida does not recognize same-sex marriages.

The Full Faith and Credit clause of the U.S. Constitution does require one state to recognize the acts, records, and proceeds of other states, unless it is against the public policy of that state. Florida does not recognize same-sex marriages under its Defense of Marriage Act. Because of that Act, and its public policy, the trial court would not allow the dissolution of marriage to proceed.

The 2nd District Court of Appeals reversed the trial court and directed that the dissolution proceedings can continue in Florida. The Court found that since sexual orientation is not a protected class, Florida need only prove that it has a rational basis for its classification in this instance. Nonetheless, the Court could not find a rational basis for sexual orientation in dissolution of marriage proceedings. The Court reasoned that if Florida’s policy “is to prevent, eliminate, discourage, or otherwise preclude same-sex marriage in Florida, permitting the courts to dissolve same-sex marriages that have been previously entered into in other states would arguably further that policy by reducing the number of same-sex married couples in Florida.”

So, we are left with the odd situation that same-sex persons cannot marry in Florida, but can get divorced here. Florida’s limitations on same-sex person marriages may be voided, depending on what happens in the U.S. Supreme Court dealing with same-sex marriage restrictions this term.


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