Florida Marriage Licenses to Become Gender-Neutral

Florida Marriage Licenses to Become Gender-Neutral
photo by Michelle Eve Sandberg

Exactly one year ago today, U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle of Florida's Northern District in Tallahassee handed his 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

Still, applications for marriage continue to only gave an option for "husband" and "wife." But that is about to change, according to Equality Florida, via Bureau of Vital Statistics spokesperson, Ana Goold.

The state is going to make an update on marriage applications, as well as death certificates, that would be gender neutral, and the updated applications and certificate are expected to be ready by mid-September. The documents will now have an area to fill out called "spouse" rather than "husband" and "wife."

Equality Florida went ahead and submitted 1,266 signatures to the state to get the state to update the documents for a more inclusive option. 

“Equality Florida is committed to making sure the state of Florida fully implements marriage equality and treats LGBT families equally under the law,” said Hannah Willard, the group's marriage issues coordinator.

The battle for the same option on birth certificates, however, remains up in the air. 

Earlier this month, Miami-based same-sex couple Cathy Pareto and Karla Arguello — the first 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.

"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." 

The group 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." 

A similar struggle was fought and won last year, when a woman asked the state to recognize her divorce even though she had married out of state.

The woman, Heather Brassner, fought to get an official divorce from her ex-partner, but the court needed to recognize the relationship as an out-of-state civil union first, in order to grant it. 

After their separation, Brassner said her ex-partner had vanished. 

Brassner then decided to file for divorce in absentia. For the divorce to be official, the state had to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages so that Brassner's civil union could be legally recognized and for the divorce to be official.

The judge eventually ruled that the state's same-sex ban was unconstitutional, and granted Brassner her divorce

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