Sen. Eleanor Sobel, who represents the 33rd District in Broward, will be honoring the six same-sex couples who sued the state last year over Florida's ban on same-sex marriage. The suit was key in ultimately lifting the ban on same-sex marriage in the state, which began issuing marriage licenses earlier this month.
The suit claimed that Florida's marriage ban could not stand in light of the 2013 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court of Miami-Dade that the federal "Defense of Marriage Act" violates the federal constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process. It was one of several lawsuits that brought down the marriage ban and is allowing same-sex couples to legally marry throughout the state.
"These twelve individuals placed themselves and their families under a barrage of scrutiny for nearly a year in order to secure marriage equality for all loving couples throughout our state," said Sobel in a statement. "They will forever be etched in the history of Florida for having demonstrated to the world that 'Love is Louder,' and discrimination has no place in our great state."
The six were thrust into the spotlight as their lawsuit made headlines and as proponents to the 2008 ban on same-sex marriage spoke out against overturning it.
"Florida is our home," plaintiff Catherina Pareto, who just married her partner of 14 years, Karla Arguello, said last July. "It's where we are raising our child and where we want to get married. 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."
Fellow plaintiffs Don Price Johnston and Jorge Isaias Diaz echoed those sentiments, with Diaz saying, "Both Don and I have very strong ties to Florida and cannot imagine getting married anywhere else. If we could marry, we would be legally recognized as a family and have all the same legal protections as others."
In July, Judge Sarah Zabel of the 11th Judicial Circuit Court ruled that the ban on same-sex marriage in Florida was unconstitutional.
Then on Monday, January 5, Zabel lifted her stay on the ruling. Same-sex marriages were allowed immediately, and Zabel also presided over the marriage of Catherina and Karla. She also married Jeffrey and Todd Delmay, making the two couples the first same-sex couples to legally marry in Florida.
The following Friday saw fellow plaintiffs Melanie and Vanessa Alenier marry, while the remaining plaintiff couples who have not yet married are planning weddings for later this year.
The senator's honoring will take place Tuesday at 5 p.m. at her office in Hollywood, located at 2600 Hollywood Blvd., in the first floor at the Old Library.
Sobel, who chaired the Florida Senate Committee on Children, Families and Elder Affairs and introduced the Families First bill in 2013, will be presenting each couple with a "Champions of Change" award.
The couples being honored are Catherina Pareto and Karla Arguello; Dr. Juan Carlos Rodriguez and David Price; Vanessa and Melanie Alenier; Todd and Jeff Delmay; Summer Greene and Pamela Faerber; and Don Price Johnston and Jorge Isaias Diaz. The Equality Florida Institute will also be honored at the ceremony.