Eight Florida same-sex couples and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday evening challenging their state's refusal to recognize gay marriages legally performed in other states.
While the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act invalidated a federal law barring the recognition of same-sex marriage, the ruling did not address states' rights to refuse recognition of legal same-sex unions.
"I'm proud of the work that I do protecting my community, but the law in Florida doesn't let me protect my own family," plaintiff Sloan Grimsley, a firefighter from Palm Beach Gardens, said in an ACLU press release Wednesday. "We just want the peace of mind of knowing that those vows we took to care for one another aren't dependent on where we are."
The lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida by the ACLU of Florida and Miami law firm Podhurst Orseck, named Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) and Attorney General Pam Bondi as defendants, among other state officials.
"The time has come for Florida to end its discrimination against same sex couples, including those whose marriages are legally recognized elsewhere in our country and by the federal government," Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, said in a press release.
In January, LGBT advocacy group Equality Florida represented six same-sex couples in a lawsuit against Miami-Dade County Clerk Harvey Ruvin after his office refused to issue them marriage licenses. The lawsuit, still pending, seeks to overturn Florida’s constitutional ban on marriage equality, which was enshrined in the state constitution by voters in 2008.
Marriage equality advocates in Kentucky achieved a related victory in February, when a federal judge ordered state officials to recognize same-sex unions performed in other states and countries.
The ACLU filed a similar lawsuit in Missouri on behalf of eight same-sex couples seeking recognition for their legal out-of-state marriages in February.
As states resisting marriage equality face a flood of legal challenges launched by LGBT rights groups, more than half of Americans today, 53 percent, support same-sex marriage.
A March 2013 survey by Public Policy Polling indicated that 75 percent of Florida voters support either civil unions or gay marriage for same-sex couples, with 23 percent opposed to any form of legal recognition.