Jubilant same-sex couples fill the streets of Florida, after fighting a tough battle to legalize same sex marriages in Florida.
The demands from gay civil rightists have been piling up
It was a strange situation for same sex married couples in Florida. The ban on same sex marriage was finally lifted in Florida years after the rest of the country leaving the proceedings for divorce still unclear. The very same day, Jennifer Scott, 47, from Miami, went to court seeking a divorce, which is now permissible for all gay and lesbian couples seeking to call it quits as a couple.
Earlier, same-sex couples were locked in a limbo known in the gay and lesbian circles as ‘wed lock’. This is because Florida courts were not able to divorce same sex couples due to Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage. They were also not able to get a divorce from another state due to residency requirements.
Nadine Smith, CEO of Equality Florida, finds the situation frustrating as there is no mechanism in place to decide on sensitive issues such as children and property. According to Smith, people become ‘enmeshed’ in marriages without having any legal way to end it if required. Some people say they should not have been married in the first place so this is their own doing.
Scott separated from her spouse in 2008 after 18 months of marriage. Faced with surgery, she made futile attempts to make a will leaving everything to her family since according to Florida law her next of kin was her spouse and only she would receive her assets.
Added to Scott’s woes were the obstructions to her getting married to her new found love Monica Strickland, 50, whom she met a year and a half ago but could not marry as Scott could not get a divorce. There are many people who believe a divorce is immoral so they do not feel the same way as Scott.
Divorce proceedings will now be clear on splitting assets
In the 2010 census it was reported that nearly 50,000 same-sex couples live in Florida while it was unclear as to how many were legally bonded. UCLA’s Williams Institute expects that lifting the ban would culminate in at least 25,000 same-sex weddings over the next three years in Florida. And they still do not have to pay any state wide income tax!
The ban has made it difficult for couples with joint assets. A couple, who had split up and were not talking to each other for years, were not able take their spouses name off as beneficiaries of their retirement accounts. The IRS does not allow married people to file as ‘single’.
Lifting the ban makes both marriage as well as divorce proceedings accessible
Same sex marriages having been allowed in other states for over a decade, Elizabeth Schwartz, a Miami divorce lawyer thinks that there is a ‘pent up’ demand for divorces in the State. As a strong supporter of the movement to lift the ban she said it was natural for couples to want all the benefits of marriage, including divorce.
The appeal for a divorce by Tampa resident, Mariama Changamire Shaw was rejected by the judge in 2012 because of Florida’s same sex marriage ban. Her divorce lawyer has appealed on her behalf to the 2nd Court of Appeals citing that lifting the ban on marriage should also grant a couple the rights to a divorce. Shaw’s case highlights the need of many same sex couples in need of legal divorce proceedings or they should have thought of this beforehand before they decided to marry.