BREAKING: Florida Couples and Equality Florida Institute Urge Court to Strike Down State’s Ban on Marriage Equality
(Miami, FL, July 2, 2014)—Today, a state trial court in Miami heard oral argument on a motion filed in May by six same-sex couples and Equality Florida Institute challenging Florida laws barring same-sex couples from marriage. The couples asked the court to strike down Florida’s marriage ban and order the state to allow same-sex couples to marry.
The couples argue that Florida’s ban on marriage equality cannot stand in light of the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in June 2013 that the federal “Defense of Marriage Act” violates the federal constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process.
Every court to consider these federal constitutional claims since last summer’s Supreme Court decision has ruled in favor of the freedom to marry for same-sex couples, including federal and state courts in Utah, Ohio, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kentucky, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.
The plaintiffs are: Equality Florida Institute; Catherina Pareto & Karla Arguello; Dr. Juan Carlos Rodriguez & David Price; Vanessa & Melanie Alenier; Todd & Jeff Delmay; Summer Greene & Pamela Faerber; and Don Price Johnston & Jorge Isaias Diaz. They are represented by the law firm Carlton Fields Jorden Burt, Elizabeth F. Schwartz, Mary B. Meeks, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR). Sylvia Walbolt of Carlton Fields Jorden Burt argued on behalf of the plaintiffs before Judge Sarah Zabel in the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court.
Said NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter: “This case is about one of the most basic principles in our constitutional system--the right of every person to be treated fairly and equally under the law. The couples in this case simply want the same opportunities to protect themselves and their children that other Florida families enjoy. We look forward to the day when Florida law supports and respects all families and treats every resident of this state as an equal, respected, and participating member of society.”
Said Pareto: “We have built our life and family together, and want to have the opportunity to get married in our home state, where our relationship will be recognized and where we will have the same security that any other family enjoys. We want our young son to grow up knowing that his family is accepted and valued by our home state.”
Added Equality Florida Institute CEO Nadine Smith:“We are proud to stand with these courageous families who have stepped forward to defend their families and challenge a law that serves no purpose than to disparage and discriminate against gay couples and our children. We are optimistic that the judge will rule in favor of equality and fairness, as judges across the country have, and strike down this ban. The tide has turned, and the day is coming when anti-gay marriage laws will meet the same fate as laws banning interracial marriage that limited my parents’ options.”
More About the Plaintiffs
Catherina Pareto and Karla Arguello
Catherina Pareto and Karla Arguello have been together for 14 years. Catherina owns and operates a financial planning firm. Karla is a stay-at-home mother to their 15-month-old son.
Dr. Juan Carlos Rodriguez and David Price
Dr. Juan Carlos Rodriguez and David Price have been together for nearly 18 years. Juan Carlos is a physician specializing in pulmonary medicine. David is the practice manager for Juan Carlos’s medical practice. They have twins, a boy and a girl, who are three years old.
Vanessa and Melanie Alenier
Vanessa and Melanie Alenier have been together for eight years. Vanessa is the assistant general manager of a national trade show and special event service provider. Melanie is an insurance agent. They have a 5-year-old son together.
Todd and Jeff Delmay
Todd and Jeff Delmay have been together for 11 years. Todd and Jeff own and operate Delmay and Partners, a company that provides housing services for large events. They have one son, who is 4 years old.
Summer Greene and Pamela Faerber
Summer Greene and Pamela Faerber have been together for 25 years. Summer is a real estate agent. Pamela is a portrait artist. Summer and Pamela raised Pamela’s daughter from a prior marriage and now have two grandchildren, ages 10 and 17.
Don Price Johnston and Jorge IsaiasDiaz
Don Price Johnston and Jorge IsaiasDiaz have been in a committed relationship for a year and recently got engaged. Don is an office manager at a Miami law firm, and Jorge is a paralegal at a Miami law firm.
Equality Florida Institute
Equality Florida Institute is the state's largest civil rights organization dedicated to securing full equality for Florida’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. The organization has many members throughout the state. Since its inception, the organization has represented the interests of LGBT Floridians through public education, coalition-building, advocacy and grassroots organizing. Equality Florida Institute also coordinates public education campaigns and events for policymakers, LGBT people, and the public at large on issues affecting the LGBT community. Equality Florida Institute members include many same-sex couples who long for the freedom to marry and would marry in Florida if Florida law permitted them to do so.