In August, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle ruled on Grimsley and Albu v. Scott that Florida's ban on marriage for same-sex couples was unconstitutional and, despite a stay on his ruling, ordered the State of Florida to issue a new death certificate for Carol Goldwasser, naming Arlene Goldberg, her partner of 47 years, as her wife.
Today, Arlene received that newly issued death certificate, making her and her late spouse among the first same-sex couples to have their marriage recognized in Florida and the first to receive an amended death certificate that reflects their marriage.
"It's hard to put into words how meaningful this is to me," said Goldberg in a public statement. "For 47 years, Carol and I made our lives together, all the while being treated like strangers in the eyes of the law in Florida. It's bittersweet that Carol isn't here to share this joy with me, but for the first time in 47 years, our marriage was respected. Our relationship and commitment to each other is finally recognized."
Today's news comes just after Monday's groundbreaking decision by the Supreme Court of the United States that brought marriage equality to thousands of couples across the nation and indirectly helped set into motion a countdown to bring marriage equality to all Floridians.
The amended death certificate comes with mixed feelings, not just for Goldberg but for many LGBT supporters. In South Florida, Aaron Huntsman and his partner William "Lee" Jones feel excited that progress has been made but feel bitter that the state only recognized Goldberg's marriage now that her wife is dead.
"It's the first up in a long battle. It's unfortunate that one had to have passed away in order to be recognized," said Huntsman who is challenging the state's ban with Lee. "We [the LGBT community] need to be treated equally now! Otherwise cases like Goldberg's will persist and the state will be held liable for the couples it not only denies dignity to, but also for the denied social security benefits of a deceased spouse."
For Huntsman today's news comes at a particularly heartbreaking time, one of his close friends died a few weeks ago from liver cancer before she could marry her girlfriend.
"My friend's partner is so devastated right now that she's not taking any phone calls," said Huntsman, beginning to sob. "They went through the state required pre-marital course and even had the certificate for completing the course ready to go."
According to Nadine Smith, CEO of Equality Florida, one of the state's leading LGBT rights' organizations, "Couples shouldn't have to wait until one spouse dies to receive the recognition and dignity that they deserve. We share in Arlene's joy that her marriage to Carol is now recognized, even if only posthumously, but we are more committed than ever to seeing the day when all Florida couples and families are treated fairly and equally."
Smith went on to say, "The Supreme Court has sent a clear message this week that there is no good reason to continue excluding same-sex couples from marriage. It's time for Governor Scott and Attorney General Bondi to use their power as top elected officials in our state for the good of all Floridians. Families in Florida should not have to wait another day, and we renew our call on them to drop their appeals and let marriage for all couples move forward in the Sunshine State."
Though Goldberg has received the first Florida death certificate to recognize a same-sex marriage, in August Palm Beach County Circuit Court Judge Diana Lewis recognized the out of state marriage of W. Jason Simpson and his late husband Frank Bangor, making the Palm Beach County case the first to have a judge recognize a same-sex marriage. Despite Judge Lewis ruling narrowly, she referred to Simpson and Bangor as being as being "spouses" and ordered Simpson to be legally recognized as Mr. Bangor's personal representative.