Last year, Florida had an opportunity to erase an outdated and unenforceable law banning marriage equality from state statutes, but lawmakers failed to take action. This year, Senator Tina Polsky and lesbian Rep. Michele Rayner have introduced two bills that would finally remove this archaic ban. Unfortunately, these bills were rejected by the Florida legislature too.
The Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, was a federal law passed in 1996 that defined marriage as “only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.” This law prevented same-sex couples from being able to marry.
DOMA was finally repealed in 2013, but by that time the damage had already been done. For years, same-sex couples had been denied the basic rights and protections that come with marriage. They were unable to file joint tax returns, receive spousal benefits, or even visit each other in the hospital. DOMA was a cruel and unjust law that caused immense suffering for countless couples.
DOMA had a significant impact on same-sex couples in Florida. In 2008, Florida voters approved a state constitutional amendment that further solidified their marriage equality ban in place since 1977, which was inspired by DOMA. As a result, same-sex couples in Florida were still not able to get married, even though DOMA had been struck down by a US Supreme Court ruling.
Senator Tina Polsky and Rep. Michele Rayner (Shaunette Stokes | Michele Rayner-Goolsby)
It's been almost seven years since same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide, and yet there are still states that keep their bans in place, just in case. Florida is one of those states, despite repeated efforts by LGBTQ+ lawmakers to remove the ban.
In 2021, Senator Tina Polsky from Boca Raton and lesbian Representative Michele Rayner tried to have the ban removed, but their efforts were unsuccessful. This year, they're trying again. Earlier this month, they introduced two bills - SB 168 in the Senate and HB 6015 in the House - that would finally strike down the prohibition on marriage equality.
It is unfortunate that the bills failed again, especially because Polksy and Rayner filed them long before this year's legislative session began. It would have been helpful if committee hearings were scheduled for them, but that did not happen. Hopefully, next year things will be different and the bills will finally be passed. Until then, we can only hope for the best.
The wait will be long. If there’s going to be a third attempt, it’s not likely to happen before 2023. But, that’s if everything goes well and no delays occur.
A recent poll shows that Floridians are increasingly supportive of same-sex marriage and now represent 33%. This is heartening news, as it indicates that attitudes are changing and people are becoming more accepting. However, the poll also showed that 34% of Floridians still prefer civil unions, while 31% are against same-sex marriage.
While it is encouraging to see that more and more Floridians are supportive of same-sex marriage, it is disheartening to know that a significant minority still opposes it.
It is hard to imagine what could be motivating their opposition, as LGBTQ couples are just like anyone else who wants to get married: they want to make a lifetime commitment to the person they love. Unfortunately, the opponents of same-sex marriage often invoke specious arguments about "traditional marriage" or "the sanctity of marriage."
It is essential to remember that marriage is about love and commitment, not tradition or religion. Everyone should have the right to marry the person they love, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation.
Florida's ban on same-sex marriage is a disgrace. It's time for the state to catch up with the rest of the country and lift this harmful and discriminatory law from its books.
Top photo by DXR