Supreme Court Decision in Two Challenges to Same-Sex Marriage Bans Could Affect Florida Residents

March 26, 2013


This month, the United States Supreme Court is hearing oral argument regarding two challenges to a state and federal ban on same-sex marriage. One case involves California's Proposition 8, which states marriage may only exist between a man and a woman in that state. California is one of 29 states that currently forbid same-sex marriage. A 2008 amendment to the Florida Constitution also defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman. In addition, the State of Florida will not recognize same-sex marriages or other unions even when entered into legally in another state.

According to Joseph Jackson, University of Florida Law Professor and Director of the Center on Children and Families, domestic relations laws fall under the jurisdiction of each state. Jackson said under the nation's federal system, Congress may not legislate marriage and divorce matters. He stated depending on the wording of the opinion, a Supreme Court ruling against the California law could potentially affect Florida's law as well. If the wording is broad enough, Florida may be forced to change or remove its ban on same-sex marriage. In contrast, a narrow opinion against the California law would likely have no effect on other states.

The other case now before the high Court challenges Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). DOMA applies to federal laws and regulations and overturning it would likely have little or no impact on Florida's same-sex marriage ban. Still, legally married same-sex couples would be allowed to enjoy the same federal tax and other benefits as heterosexual couples if DOMA is ruled unconstitutional. An opinion is reportedly not expected in either case until June, when the current session of the Supreme Court concludes.

Despite that same-sex and unmarried couples may not divorce in the State of Florida, important legal matters may still be addressed using a legal separation agreement. Normally, a legal separation agreement will distribute a former couple's assets and debts. Since the question of whether same-sex marriage will be legal is still up in the air, many couples are forced to look at other legal alternatives. They can enter into co-habitation agreements that specify how they will distribute all assets brought into their relationship, as well as how income earned during their relationship will be dealt with in the event the relationship ends. An agreement may also contain terms related to any children of the couples, such as child custody and support obligations.. Any provisions relating to children may be difficult to enforce, because a court will determine what is in the best interest of the children at the time of litigation, if any were to occur. It would not be possible for the couple to know what would be in the child’s best interest at some point in the future, even if both parents want what is best for the child. Regardless of a couple's legal status, facing the end of any long-term relationship is always difficult. If you have family law questions, you should contact a skilled attorney to help you protect your financial and other rights.

At the Law Firm of Vilar Law, P.A., our dedicated lawyers focus their practice exclusively on family law matters. Our capable attorneys are available to assist you with all of your family law needs including legal separation agreements, complex divorces, equitable distribution, spousal support agreements, child custody and support, paternity, prenuptial contracts, post-judgment enforcement and modification, and domestic violence. The Law Firm of Vilar Law, P.A. represents clients who are located throughout the Miami area. To discuss your legal separation or other family law issue with a knowledgeable advocate, you should give attorney Patrick Vilar a call at (305) 373-8000 or contact them through the law firm's website.

More Articles
  • So-Called 'Anti-Sharia' Bill Approved by Florida Senate Judiciary Committee, Miami Family Lawyer Blog, March 22, 2013
  • Basketball Superstar Michael Jordan Should Consider Entering Into a Prenuptial Agreement Before Marrying in Palm Beach County, Miami Family Lawyer Blog, March 12, 2013
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Photo credit: davidlat, Stock.xchng

Article updated November 2, 2020.

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