LGBTQ South Florida

Fort Myers widow Arlene Goldberg featured in gay Freedom to Marry TV ad

Carol Goldwasser and wife Arlene Goldberg of Fort Myers, together for 47 years, at a 2012 Visuality LGBT youth fundraiser. Goldwasser died in March.
Carol Goldwasser and wife Arlene Goldberg of Fort Myers, together for 47 years, at a 2012 Visuality LGBT youth fundraiser. Goldwasser died in March. Via Facebook

A Fort Myers widow who sued the state of Florida to recognize her New York wedding to another woman is featured in a new national television ad advocating marriage rights for same-sex couples.

Arlene Goldberg is pictured at the end of the 30-second Freedom to Marry video holding a photo of herself and her late wife, Carol Goldwasser. Partners for 47 years, they moved from the Bronx to Florida in 1989 and married in New York in October 2011. Goldwasser died March 13.

“See a cameo appearance of my situation in this ad.....,” Goldberg posted Friday on Facebook. “Thank you, for your continuing support, ACLU and Freedom to Marry!!!”

Goldberg’s primary income is Social Security. Because Florida doesn’t recognize Goldberg’s marriage, she is unable to qualify as Goldwasser’s widow and collect her Social Security payments, which were $700 more each month than Goldberg’s.

“The ad underscores the human costs of prolonging marriage discrimination,” Freedom to Marry President Evan Wolfson said in a news release.

Goldberg will also be featured in a soon-to-be released Freedom to Marry video.

“I told my story,” Goldberg said. “I told them about the Social Security issue, about losing my house. What happened when Carol died. We talked about everything for hours. And how I feel about doing this for my community.”

Last April, Goldberg joined a lawsuit against Florida filed by SAVE and the ACLU of Florida on behalf of eight same-sex couples who married elsewhere in the United States: 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; and Denise Hueso and Sandra Jean Newson of Miami.

“Carol and I loved each other for nearly half a century; we were married. That’s supposed to mean something, but Florida says I’m just a stranger to Carol,” Goldberg said at the time in an ACLU news release.

In August, U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle of Tallahassee ruled that Florida’s gay-marriage ban is unconstitutional, ordering the state to allow the marriage of same-sex couples and to recognize marriages performed elsewhere.

“When observers look back 50 years from now, the arguments supporting Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage, though just as sincerely held, will again seem an obvious pretext for discrimination,” Hinkle wrote in his opinion. “Observers who are not now of age will wonder just how those views could have been held.”

Hinkle issued an immediate stay covering all aspects of the federal case except one: The judge ordered Goldwasser’s death certificate be amended to show she was a married woman, not single at the time she died.

“The defendant Florida Surgeon General must issue a corrected death certificate for Carol Goldwasser showing that at the time of her death she was married to Arlene Goldberg,” Hinkle wrote.

The state updated Goldwasser’s death certificate. Goldberg said she saw the amended copy on Friday.

“I was really excited. I couldn’t believe they did it,” Goldberg said. “Of course, the judge mandated it be done. And it’s done.”