Gay marriage case assigned to Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel

A lawsuit by six couples demanding they be allowed to marry their same-sex partners in the state of Florida has been assigned to Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel.

Zabel, who as a litigator specialized in family law, is married to former North Miami Beach Mayor Myron Rosner. She has been a circuit judge since 2003.

“We have great confidence in the state court system that we’ll get a fair hearing,” said Miami Beach attorney Elizabeth Schwartz, one of the lawyers representing the six couples: Catherina Pareto and Karla Arguello of Coconut Grove; Dr. Juan Carlos Rodriguez and David Price of Davie; Vanessa and Melanie Alenier of Hollywood; Todd and Jeff Delmay of Hollywood; Summer Greene and Pamela Faerber of Plantation; and Don Price Johnston and Jorge Isaias Diaz of Miami. Equality Florida Institute is also a plaintiff.

According to a 21-page filing on Tuesday, which names Miami-Dade County Clerk Harvey Ruvin as defendant, the plaintiffs “allege that Florida’s categorical exclusion of all same-sex couples from marriage deny same-sex couples, including the plaintiff couples, and their families the fundamental rights, dignity, and equality guaranteed to all persons by the United States Constitution.”

Last Friday, the couples applied for marriage licenses at the Miami-Dade County Clerk’s office and were turned down.

“The clerk was very sweet about it. She placed a call to make sure, saying, ‘Did something change because I don’t think we can do this,” Schwartz said. “I said, ‘Thank you for being diligent. It hasn’t yet, but hopefully this will be the first step in making that change happen.”

No court dates or hearings have been set.

Nadine Smith, CEO of Equality Florida, the state’s leading gay-rights group, said she is confident Florida’s 2008 constitutional ban against gay marriage and civil unions will fall.

“Anyone who gives this issue a fair hearing and applies the law can only come to one conclusion: It's wrong to deny same-sex couples and our children the protections that only marriage can provide,” Smith said Wednesday.

Smith said that since Tuesday, “we’ve had hundreds of couples write to tell their stories.

“You realize how much hope people have as this case moves through the court system,” she said.

Wrote one lesbian couple married in New York:

“We are currently snowbirds and love being here on the Gulf of Mexico. But as we approach retirement and consider living here full-time, the anti-same sex marriage policy, gives us pause. It is frightening to think that we would not be recognized as spouses in an emergency situation. The current ban marginalizes the life that we have built over so many years.”

Read more Miami-Dade stories from the Miami Herald

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category