Florida Marriage Licenses Are Now Gender-Neutral

Florida Marriage Licenses Are Now Gender-Neutral
photo by Michelle Eve Sandberg

While Kim Davis — the Kentucky county clerk who spent six days in jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples — has been hijacking the headlines, news in Florida is that the state's marriage certificates are now officially gender neutral. 

A year after a judge said Florida's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, and nine months after marriage equality in Florida became official, the state's applications for marriage continued to only have a fill-out options for "husband" and "wife." But now, clerks of court offices will officially begin handing out applications with fill-out areas that read "spouse."

"We welcome this long-overdue update, having advocated on its behalf for over 9 months," Hannah Willard, Equality Florida's marriage issues coordinator, tells New Times. "Equality Florida is committed to holding the state of Florida accountable to fully implementing marriage equality and treating LGBT families fairly."

Equality Florida, an LGBT-rights advocacy group, had been leading the charge for change, and submitted 1,266 signatures to state officials in August to get Florida to update marriage certificates for a more inclusive option.

Last year, U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle of Florida's Northern District in Tallahassee handed down a 33-page ruling against the state's same-sex marriage ban. After staying the ruling, and some challenges from state attorney general Pam Bondi, and some conservative groups, the ruling finally became official on January 6 of this year

State officials will be sending the new marriage forms with "spouse" on them to court clerk who will begin issuing them on October 1. 

Meanwhile, the fight to have a similar change made to birth certificates is still ongoing.

In August, Cathy Pareto and Karla Arguello — the first same-sex couple to marry in Florida following Hinkle's ruling — filed a lawsuit in Tallahassee federal court against the state, claiming that the Bureau of Vital Statistics won't allow Florida hospitals to list both same-sex parents on birth certificates. Pareto and Arguello had twins on August 6, but were told by hospital administrators that both their names couldn't appear on their children's birth certificates.

Cathy Pareto and Karla Arguello wed on January 6
Cathy Pareto and Karla Arguello wed on January 6
photo by Jonathan Kendall

"Pretty much almost every other state has already done this," Equality Florida CEO co-founder Nadine Smith, said at the time. "Florida's going to waste time, waste money and leave parents who should be celebrating the birth of their child in uncertainty because both parents aren't included on the birth certificate."

Smith called the hospital not allowing both parents to put their names on the birth certificated "wrong and mean-spirited."

Equality Florida has also challenged the state on behalf of three other same-sex couples who were not permitted to put their names on birth certificates. According to an Equality Florida press release, state officials currently "insist that only the birth mother be listed on a newborn child’s birth certificate and that she be listed as single even if she is married to a woman."

Pareto released a statement following the lawsuit filing that said, "The state’s refusal to recognize that they have two parents and to list both of us on the birth certificates is demeaning and hurtful."  

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