Pam Bondi Officially Opposes Lesbian Couple's Divorce

Pam Bondi is once again opposing same-sex marriage rights in Florida.

On Wednesday, the attorney general filed papers in Broward County Circuit Court saying that Palm Beach resident Heather Brassner and her former partner, Megan Lade, should not be granted a petition for divorce. Brassner and Lade were joined together in a civil union in Vermont back in 2002.

In August, Broward County Circuit Court Judge Dale Cohen had become the third Florida judge to rule that the state's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, as he presided over Brassner's case.

See also: South Florida Lesbians Challenge Gay Marriage Law: "We Are Not Second-Class Citizens"

Brassner, 41, had been seeking to file for divorce in absentia after the couple split and Lade disappeared.

Brassner soon had hired a private investigator try to track down Lade, but those efforts proved unsuccessful.

Brassner's main reason for seeking a divorce was security. She fears Lade may resurface and come after her financially, use her name to obtain property, or do any number of things that could be used against her. Basically, Brassner is seeking basic marriage rights afforded to straight divorced couples.

Cohen had to declare the state's same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional so Brassner and Lade's civil union could be legally recognized and for the divorce to be official.

But on Wednesday, Bondi stepped in and said Cohen should not grant Brassner the petition. A civil union is not the same as a marriage, Bondi's filing says. For this reason, Bondi argues, the ban on same-sex marriage cannot be declared unconstitutional.

The deadline to oppose the divorce was Friday.

"Attorney General Bondi should not hold our state and our families hostage by calling for the stay to remain in place," Equality Florida CEO Nadine Smith said in a statement. "Let her follow the lead of the 9th Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court and allow marriages to commence. Every day that Floridians are denied access to the protections only marriage can provide, our families suffer."

Brassner, who has since begun dating someone else, told New Times in September that she would keep fighting for the rights of same-sex couples, even if Bondi had appealed Cohen's ruling, as she was expected to do.

"I believe in fighting for equality for all," she said. "We are all members of the human race, and my hope is that love and kindness become the rule of the land. We are not second-class citizens, nor is anyone else. I believe that being seen as equal goes hand in hand with human dignity."

Bondi has filed several motions in a state appeals court requesting a freeze on appeals by same-sex couples who are challenging Florida's gay marriage ban. With the motions, Bondi wants the U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether states have the right to ban gay marriage. Her contention is that it would be a burden on the state's taxpayers to keep bringing these issues to court.

She's also been very vocal about her opposition to same-sex marriage in Florida. In July she argued against six gay and lesbian couples suing the state for the legalization of same-sex marriage.

Bondi wrote, "Disrupting Florida's existing marriage laws would impose significant public harm."

"Florida's marriage laws have a close, direct and rational relationship to society's legitimate interest in increasing the likelihood that children will be born to and raised by the mothers and fathers who produced them in stable and enduring family units," Bondi added.

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Chris Joseph
Contact: Chris Joseph