Same-sex marriage has been legal in Florida since Jan. 6, 2015. The issue is heading to the U.S. Supreme Court this summer, but in the meantime, marriage licenses are being issued to same-sex couples.
This week on Florida Matters, we will take a look at same-sex marriage in Florida. In this preview, Mike Reedy with Equality Florida and Alan Gassman, an attorney with Gassman Law Associates in Clearwater and author of The Florida Legal Guide for Same Sex Couples, discuss many of the questions facing same-sex couples as they consider tying the knot.
ALAN GASSMAN: They’re asking a lot of questions. There’s a lot of areas that have to be understood to avoid a haphazard situation.
CARSON COOPER: Mike Reedy, the U.S. Census counted around 50,000 same-sex couples in Florida back in 2010. Do you have any idea how many are married?
MIKE REEDY: We don’t. We know that the Williams Institute out of UCLA expects about 26,000 couples are going to get married within the first three years.
CARSON COOPER: I guess you can predict there will be many more marriages in Florida in the coming months.
REEDY: Absolutely. We had a huge response at the beginning on Jan. 6. Couples now, not only Florida residents, but also, those numbers I mentioned (from) the Williams Institute are very conservative. That’s not including anybody that’s going to come to the Sunshine State to get married.
COOPER: Marriage rates in the U.S. have been dropping. They’ve in fact reached historic lows in recent years. The recession gets some of the blame. Many couples are simply deciding they do not want to tie the knot for financial reasons. Same-sex couples face the same exact challenges, I would imagine, when it comes to things like finances and property and the like?
GASSMAN: Exactly. And while opposite-sex couples have taken it for granted that you get married at a certain age, you have children, you remain married, the same-sex couples have the option. They’ve been without marriage. Now their relationship can be recognized, but do they want to pay more taxes to the IRS? Do they want to lose some Social Security benefits? Do they want to possibly be disqualified from Medicaid? So they really need to think it through first, and decide whether they want to have a governmental marriage or maybe just a marriage in the eyes of themselves and their families.
COOPER: Mike Reedy, because same-sex couples can now be married, are some couples, would you say, ignoring that part of the aspect? I mean, this is a marriage, it’s a contract. There are obligations and risks, you could say.
REEDY: Absolutely. We’ve heard kickback of now that marriage is here, we should eliminate domestic partnerships, and I’m sure Alan can chime in on what that means from a legal perspective, but we have always advocated for marriage equality. We believe that it’s a civil right. But not every single person who is a part of the LGBT community is looking to get hitched, let alone right this year.
COOPER: Right…divorce rates have gone way up in recent years. If the Supreme Court does clear the way for good for same-sex marriage, would that put to rest any lingering questions about gay divorce?
GASSMAN: I would think it would eventually. I’m sure that the states would fight it initially, but eventually there will be the ability to divorce.
COOPER: There have been attempts now, it’s kind of confusing, because you can be married in Vermont but it’s a civil union in Delaware, it’s something else in another state, you’re not recognized at all in Pennsylvania, and so on. Now back in December, Mike Reedy, a Broward County judge granted the first same-sex divorce in Florida history. They were married back in 2002, I believe in Vermont.
REEDY: Absolutely. It was an estranged marriage. For so many people, marriage can be one of the most uplifting things. It can solidify the love and support that someone has, but as we know with any couple, sometimes we need to separate that. And legal protection on both sides of this issue, in both marriage and divorce, needs to be solidified nationwide.