The Florida same-sex marriage story:
Never miss a local story.
▪ June 26, 2013: The U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of New York widow Edith Windsor, ordering the federal government to recognize her 2007 marriage in Canada to Thea Spyer. One week earlier, LGBT group Equality Florida launches a ‘Get Engaged’ campaign to legalize same-sex marriage in Florida.
▪ Sept. 27, 2013: Lake Worth art dealer Heather Brassner sues to divorce her estranged partner in Broward Circuit Court. The women were bound legally by a 2002 Vermont civil union and Florida’s gay marriage ban prevented the state from recognizing their legal relationship. The case is brought by law firm Brodzki Jacobs & Associates of Coral Springs.
▪ Jan. 21, 2014: Six same-sex couples and Equality Florida Institute sue Miami-Dade County Clerk Harvey Ruvin after his office denies the men and women marriage licenses. The couples are Jorge Isaias Diaz and Don Price Johnston of Miami; 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. They are represented by the National Center For Lesbian Rights and attorneys including Elizabeth Schwartz; NCLR legal director Shannon Minter; Jeffrey Michael Cohen, Sylvia Walbolt and Cristina Alonso of Carlton Fields Jorden Burt; and Mary B. Meeks of Orlando,
▪ Feb. 8, 2014: Jacksonville law firm Sheppard, White, Kachergus & DeMaggio files suit on behalf of James Brenner and Charles Jones of Tallahassee, who demanded the state of Florida recognize their 2009 Canada marriage.
▪ March 12, 2014: The ACLU of Florida and LGBT-rights group SAVE sue Florida in federal court on behalf of eight same-sex couples legally married elsewhere, whose unions are not recognized in Florida. The couples are Sloan Grimsley and Joyce Albu of Palm Beach Gardens; Lindsay Myers and Sarah Humlie of Pensacola; Chuck Hunziger and Bob Collier of Broward; Juan Del Hierro and Thomas Gantt Jr. of Miami; Christian Ulvert and Carlos Andrade of Miami; Richard Milstein and Eric Hankin of Miami; Robert Loupo and John Fitzgerald of Miami; Denise Hueso and Sandra Jean Newson of Miami.
▪ March 18, 2014: Brenner and Jones' lawyers sue in federal court on behalf of Stephen Schlairet and Ozzie Russ, who want to obtain a marriage license in Washington County, Florida.
▪ April 1, 2014: Two Key West men, Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones, sue Monroe County Clerk Amy Heavilin for a marriage license. The couple are represented by attorneys Bernadette Restivo, Jessica Reilly and Elena Vigil-Fariñas of Key Largo.
▪ April 10, 2014: The ACLU amends its complaint by adding another plaintiff, a Fort Myers woman whose wife died March 13. The women, together 47 years, had been married in 2011 in New York. The ACLU suit is eventually consolidated with the Brenner-Jones and Schlairet-Russ cases.
▪ July 1, 2014: Law firm Greenberg Traurig advises client Florida Association of County Clerks that clerks who issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples before the U.S. or Florida supreme courts settle the issue face “a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable by imprisonment of not more than one year and a fine of not more than $1,000.”
▪ July 15, 2014: W. Jason Simpson petitions Florida to recognize his Delaware marriage to Frank Bangor, who died March 14 in Palm Beach County.
▪ July 17, 2014: Monroe Chief Circuit Judge Luis Garcia rules Florida’s gay marriage ban unconstitutional and that the two Key West men can marry.
▪ July 25, 2014: Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel rules the six same-sex couples can marry.
The Garcia and Zabel rulings are stayed to allow Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi to appeal them at Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal. The cases have been combined and not yet heard by the appeals court.
▪ Aug. 4, 2014: Broward Circuit Judge Dale Cohen rules the law unconstitutional and says he will grant Brassner a divorce. He vacates his ruling a day before finalizing the divorce because Brassner’s lawyer had not properly notified Bondi’s office about the constitutional challenge.
▪ Aug. 5, 2014: Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Diana Lewis names Simpson personal representative of his late husband’s estate, the first time any Florida judge has recognized an out-of-state same-sex marriage, according to Boca Raton attorney Drew Fein.
▪ On Aug. 21, U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle of Tallahassee declares Florida’s gay marriage ban unconstitutional. His ruling is stayed until Jan. 5, to allow Bondi to appeal to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.
▪ Dec. 3: The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals denies Bondi’s request to extend Hinkle’s stay. She appeals to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
▪ Dec. 17, 2014: Cohen has again declared the marriage ban unconstitutional and in four minutes grants Brassner a divorce.
▪ Dec. 19, 2014: The U.S. Supreme Court on a 7-2 vote denies Bondi’s request to extend the Hinkle stay. Marriages are set to begin Jan. 6 and Florida clerks are in chaos whether to follow the Greenberg Traurig legal advice.
▪ Dec. 23, 2014: Washington County Clerk Lora Bell files motion with Hinkle to clarify his order. Hinkle give Bondi and state until Dec. 29 to respond. Bondi tosses it back to Hinkle: “This Court is best situated to determine the reach of its own order.”
▪ Jan. 1, 2015: Hinkle clarifies his original order and instructs all 67 Florida clerks they are bound by the U.S. Constitution and must not enforce the marriage ban, or face possible lawsuits. Greenberg Traurig revises its recommendation to the clerks, instructing that now they must abide by Hinkle’s order.
▪ Jan. 5, 2015: Zabel lifts stay in the Miami-Dade case and same-sex marriage becomes legal in the county, nearly 13 hours before the rest of the state. Zabel herself marries two plaintiff couples from her case: Arguello and Pareto, and the Delmays.
▪ Jan. 6, 2015: Same-sex marriage becomes legal throughout Florida, with mass weddings performed shortly after midnight in Key West and Fort Lauderdale.
▪ June 26, 2015: The U.S. Supreme Court rules that same-sex marriage is a legal right throughout the nation.