Marriage Law Florida

In 1996, Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which officially defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Since the passage of DOMA, several states, have amended their constitutions to prohibit same-sex marriage. In 2008, Florida voters passed a ballot measure to amend the state constitution, legally banning gay marriage in the state. As a result, Florida does not recognize same-sex marriage, domestic partnerships or civil unions.

Domestic Partnership Registries

Although gay marriage is prohibited by Florida law, several cities and counties have enacted their own laws providing some rights for same-sex couples by allowing a domestic partnership registry. These registries are part of a growing movement to extend rights to same-sex couples in Florida. These registries offer important protections. These protections do vary by city and county, but generally these registries allow same-sex couples to make health care decisions, visit each other in a hospital setting, be notified in case of emergency and to make funeral arrangements. 

Currently, there are four counties and six cities in Florida that have created domestic partnership registries. The counties include Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe and Palm Beach County. The cities include Orlando, West Palm Beach, Gainesville, Key West, Miami Beach and, most recently, Tampa. April 12, 2012, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn signed a law creating a citywide domestic partnership registry.

Expanding Protections for Same-Sex Couples

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs had been considering expanding Orlando’s registry to apply throughout the entire county, but was concerned about the constitutionality of the registry. After weeks of discussion with gay rights advocates, Jacobs has agreed to expand the registry. The proposed Orange County domestic partnership registry would extend benefits to unmarried gal and straight couples countywide. The details of this county ordinance are still being worked on, but advocates are optimistic that it will be approved.

Other cities and counties throughout Florida are considering enacting domestic partnership registries as well, with varying levels of community support. Equality Florida is the one of the major advocacy groups fighting for marriage rights for same-sex couples. This group works with local and state government representatives to create protections for unmarried couples throughout Florida. They have been working together with legislators in Tallahassee to introduce a statewide domestic partnership bill that will extend important protections to all of Florida’s families.

Florida Marriage Laws: What the State Constitution says…

SECTION 27. Marriage defined.—Inasmuch as marriage is the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife, no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized.

History.—Proposed by Initiative Petition filed with the Secretary of State February 9, 2005; adopted 2008. 

Source: Florida State Constitution