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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 24 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 04
Couples sue for right to marry in Florida
Section One
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Couples sue for right to marry in Florida

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Six Gay and Lesbian couples and the Equality Florida Institute sued the state of Florida for the right to marry on January 21.

Their lawsuit argues that Florida's laws barring same-sex couples from marriage violate the U.S. Constitution by denying them the legal protections and equal dignity that having the right to marry provides.

All the couples are from Miami and the surrounding area, and filed their suit in a Miami court. Four of the couples are raising children, and another couple has an adult child and two grandchildren.

Plaintiff Catherina Pareto explained that she and her partner wanted to be married in their home state, rather than go to another jurisdiction where marriage is already legal.

'Florida is our home, it is where we are raising our child, and where we want to get married,' she said. 'Karla [Arguello] and I wish for our family the same things that other families want. We want to build our lives together, provide a safe and caring home for our child, and share in the responsibilities and protections of marriage.'

Plaintiff Summer Greene said she worried about being able to protect her partner as they age.

'As Pam [Faerber] and I get older, it worries me that we do not have the legal protections that marriage provides in case one of us becomes ill or dies,' she said. 'Getting married in Florida will provide us with those important protections and it will allow us to celebrate that joyous occasion with all our family and friends, just as other couples can.'

The couples are being represented by private attorneys and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

'The law should support families, not make it harder for committed couples to support one another and protect their children,' NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter said. 'Barring same-sex couples from marriage causes great harms to their families and children while helping no one.'

'Courts throughout the country are recognizing that this is an issue of basic dignity and fundamental fairness,' Attorney Cristina Alonso added: 'We look forward to the day when our clients can celebrate and protect their relationships by getting married in their home state in front of family and friends.'

Attorney Elizabeth Schwartz noted that without the right to marry, securing legal protections for same-sex partners can be very difficult.

'As someone who has spent nearly two decades helping same-sex couples and their families achieve some measure of legal protection under Florida law, which gives us very few tools, I know too well just how difficult the process can be and how much vulnerability these couples face,' she said. 'The protections we are able to cobble together without marriage pale in comparison to the comprehensive security provided by marriage recognized not just by the federal government but by the State of Florida.'

Equality Florida Institute Chief Executive Officer Nadine Smith said that public opinion is on the side of the plaintiffs.

'Today the majority of Floridians stand with us as we take this historic step toward marriage equality in the Sunshine State,' she said. 'These couples have been embraced by their families and communities, but every day, Florida laws are denying them the protections and dignity that every family deserves. These harmful laws are outdated and out of step. It is time for all families in our state to have full equality under the law.'

The plaintiff couples in the suit are: Catherina Pareto and Karla Arguello, Dr. Juan Carlos Rodriguez and David Price, Vanessa and Melanie Alenier, Todd and Jeff Delmay, Summer Greene and Pamela Faerber, and Don Price Johnston and Jorge Isaias Diaz.

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