(Miami, FL, July 25, 2014)—Today, a state trial court in Miami issued a decision striking down Florida’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples and ordering Miami-Dade County to allow same-sex couples to marry. The court stayed the order pending appeal.
The case was brought by Equality Florida Institute and Catherina Pareto and Karla Arguello, Dr. Juan Carlos Rodriguez and David Price, Vanessa and Melanie Alenier, Todd and Jeff Delmay, Summer Greene and Pamela Faerber, and Don Price Johnston and 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).
On July 1, 2014, Judge Sarah Zabel of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court heard oral argument in the case. The couples argued 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, including federal and state courts in Utah, Ohio, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kentucky, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
The decision signals that momentum for marriage equality is at an all-time high in Florida. It comes two weeks after Monroe county Circuit Court Judge Luis Garcia issued a similar decision striking down Florida’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples and ordering Monroe County to allow same-sex couples to marry. The Monroe County decision was appealed by Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, which automatically stayed the decision while the appeal is pending.
Said NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter: “Today’s decision affirms the fundamental principles of equality and fairness and the common humanity of gay and lesbian people. As the Court recognized, these families are part of Florida’s community, and equal protection requires that they be given the same legal protections and respect as other families in this state. The Court’s ruling is a victory not only for the courageous couples who brought this case, but for everyone who cares about freedom and fairness.”
Added Pareto: “It means so much for a court to recognize our family and say that we must be treated equally. We love this state and want nothing more than to be treated as equal citizens who contribute to the community and help make Florida an even better place for everyone who lives here. Today’s ruling means that we can finally have the same legal protections as other married couples and the security of knowing that our family is legally secure.”
Equality Florida Institute Chief Executive Officer Nadine Smith said: “Today’s ruling is a victory for thousands of couples who have been denied access to marriage. It is a victory for children who have longed for the day when their families would be respected equally under the law. And it is a victory for all Floridians who share the values of fairness and equality under the law. We applaud Judge Zabel for her decision. No matter the legal path ahead, we will continue to fight until the day we all have the right in Florida to marry the person we love.”
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 1-year-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 Isaias Diaz
Don Price Johnston and Jorge Isaias Diaz 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 LGBTQ Floridians through public education, coalition-building, advocacy and grassroots organizing. Equality Florida Institute also coordinates public education campaigns and events for policymakers, LGBTQ people, and the public at large on issues affecting the LGBTQ 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.