Gay Florida Couples Ask State Court to Declare Florida's Ban on Same-Sex Marriage Unconstitutional

Six same-sex couples who sued the state back in January have asked a state court to rule that Florida's ban on marriage equality is unconstitutional.

According to Equality Florida, the couples' motion, filed Thursday, asserts that Florida's marriage ban cannot stand in light of last year's U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the federal "Defense of Marriage Act" violates the federal constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process.

Every court in the U.S. that has looked into these constitutional claims has ruled in favor of same-sex couples' right to marry.

See also: Florida's Legally Gay Married Couples Will Now Be Recognized for Federal Tax Purposes

While a good portion of the country has seen advances in getting gay marriage legalized -- including federal courts in Utah, Ohio, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Illinois, Michigan, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia -- Florida has lagged. In 2008, a ban on same-sex marriage was voted into the state constitution.

"Florida is our home; it is where we are raising our child and where we want to get married," said plaintiff Catherina Pareto, who is fighting to marry her partner of 14 years, Karla Arguello, said last January, per Equality Florida. "Karla and I wish for our family the same things that other families want. We want to build our lives together, provide a safe and caring home for our child, and share in the responsibilities and protections of marriage."

On Thursday, Pareto echoed those sentiments.

"We want the opportunity to get married in our home state where our relationship will be recognized and our family will have the same security that any other family in Florida enjoys," she said in a statement. "We're hopeful that our 1-year-old son will be able to grow up in a state that respects his family and treats us as equals under the law."

As time marches on, Florida seems to be coming around on same-sex marriage rights.

In March, Rand Hoch, Florida's first openly gay judge, predicted that marriage equality would come to the state no later than by the end of June, 2016.

"As a lawyer who closely follows this issue in federal courts across America," Hoch said in a speech at a marriage equality demonstration in Lake Worth, "I feel comfortable in predicting that before the end of June 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court will strike down all laws across the nation which prevent lesbians and gay men from marrying their partners."

Last August, the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the IRS ruled that it will recognize joint tax returns of gay married couples in Florida. This means that Florida residents are able to get married in a state where same-sex marriage is legal and receive federal benefits once they come back home.

But the state still doesn't recognize their marriages, and any gay couple who wants the benefits married couples receive needs to go through the trouble of flying elsewhere to get hitched.

Still, there is progress, even if it's slow-going.

"The law should treat all families fairly. Florida's marriage ban makes it harder for same-sex couples to take care of one another and protect their children," Equality Florida Institute's Executive Director Nadine Smith said in a press release Thursday. "We are confident when we have our day in court Florida will stand with other courts across the country in concluding these laws violate the basic principles of fairness and equality for all."

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Chris Joseph
Contact: Chris Joseph