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Florida’s marriage equality case centers around same-sex couples with children

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Six couples asked a state court in Florida to rule that the state’s ban on marriage equality is unconstitutional. Together with Equality Florida Institute, the couples argue that Florida’s ban on marriage equality violates the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the United States Constitution. LGBT families are the center of this case with four of the couples raising children, and another couple having an adult child and two grandchildren.

Plaintiffs Catherina Pareto and Karla Arguello have been together for 14 years and have a 1-year-old son. “We’ve built a family together over the last 14 years,” explained Pareto, “and 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. 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.”

Dr. Juan Carlos Rodriguez and David Price are also plaintiffs in the case. The two of them have been together for nearly 18 years and they have twins, a boy and a girl, who are 3 years old. “Florida is our home and it scares us that in times of crisis we won’t have the security that other couples enjoy because the state does not allow us to share in the responsibilities and protections of marriage,” said Dr. Rodriguez. “I look forward to the day we will be able to marry before our family and friends in the state we call home.”

Other plaintiffs in the case include Vanessa and Melanie Alenier who have been in a relationship for eight years and have a 5-year-old son together, Todd and Jeff Delmay who have been in a relationship for 11 years and have a 4-year-old son together, Summer Greene and Pamela Faerber who have been together for 25 years and have a daughter and 2 grandchildren, and Don Price Johnston and Jorge Isaias Diaz who have been in a committed relationship for a year and recently got engaged. The law firms Carlton Fields Jorden Burt, Elizabeth F. Schwartz, Mary B. Meeks, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) represent the plaintiffs.

The couples' motion filed today claims that Florida’s marriage ban cannot stand in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling last June that the federal “Defense of Marriage Act” violates the federal constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process. It was also noted that every court to consider these federal constitutional claims since last summer’s Supreme Court decision has ruled in favor of the freedom to marry for same-sex couples. This includes federal courts in Utah, Ohio, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Illinois, Michigan, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.

“The law should treat all families fairly,” explained Equality Florida Institute’s Executive Director Nadine Smith. “Florida’s marriage ban makes it harder for same-sex couples to take care of one another and protect their children. 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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