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5 Years After Marriage Equality Ruling, Florida Law Still Says Man And Woman

brides walk down the aisle.
Lynne Sladky
AP Photo

January 6th is the anniversary of same-sex marriage becoming legal in Florida. But 5 years after the historic ruling, Florida statute still says marriage is only between a woman and a man. Lawmakers are hoping to change that during this upcoming 2020 legislative session.

Having outdated laws on Florida’s books is not unusual. But there’s one that’s caught the eye of  Rep. Adam Hattersley, D-Riverview. Chapter 741.212 doesn’t recognize same-sex marriages. 

"This is not just, you know, unconstitutional and not just obsolete, but this is cruel language in our statute. So, it needs to get out of there," he says.

Hattersley sponsored a bill last year to repeal the language regarding "man and woman" but it didn't get a hearing. A different version, by Sen. Gary Farmer, would change the wording from "man and wife" to "spouses and either spouses". Democratic lawmakers have been trying to change the law since 2017, but none of the proposals have gotten committee hearings.  

"A lot of times people say that we run out of time in session," Hattersley begins, "but I don't think that was the case, because it was one of the first repealer bills filed during committee week. There was plenty of time and unfortunately certain members of [the] Republican leadership don't have an appetite to fix something that they... hope would come back into play in the future."

Jon Harris Maurer of Equality Florida is a supporter of Hattersley's bill. He hopes the measure will get a hearing in 2020.

"It has been introduced for several years and I frankly can't understand why there would be opposition to it. The law that we're dealing with is patently unconstitutional," Maurer says.

Florida courts can't use Chapter 741.212 to stop a same-sex marriages. However, Maurer says it's offensive to still have the law in Florida statute.

"Just having this law on the book is stigmatizing and sends a message that same-sex marriages don't need to be treated the same as opposite marriages."