Defense of Marriage Act reversal falls short in Florida

June 26, 2013

While marriage equality supporters across the country celebrate today’s Supreme Court decision, Florida’s same-sex married couples are left out.

Supreme Court justices voted 5-4 to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act, which denied federal benefits to married same-sex couples, but did not address state laws that invalidate same-sex unions.

Florida has both a state statute and an amendment to its constitution defining marriage as between a man and a woman and declaring invalid same-sex marriages entered into in other states.

“We see this as a major step forward,” Stratton Pollitzer, deputy director of Equality Florida, said, “but we’re also aware that for the most part we’re not included in today’s victory. And more than anything, this is a call to action.”
Pollitzer hoped up until the last second that today’s decision would provide an overarching legalization of same-sex marriage. But last week, when political pundits began to say that was unlikely, Equality Florida started a movement called Get Engaged. The goal is to bring marriage equality to Florida. At Imengaged.org, visitors can find explanations of why same-sex couples want to marry, read stories about same-sex couples and their families, donate to the cause and get tips on how to spread the message.

“Today is a call to action,” Pollitzer said, “for not just the gay community, but for everyone in Florida who supports marriage equality. Not simply to be on our side, but to speak up, stand up and be counted on the right side.”
For Dan Maltbie and Garry Houston, of Fort Myers, today’s decision is still historic. The couple, married in Vermont in 2003, think the decision has the potential to change their lives.

“We are extremely happy,” 57-year-old Maltbie said. “We’re celebrating. We’re having a beer.”

Maltbie and Houston filed for joint bankruptcy recently, testing the system although their marriage is not recognized in Florida. The U.S. Trustees, which handles federal bankruptcy, has not given the couple a verdict. If today’s decision means Maltbie and Houston’s bankruptcy petition is accepted, it will save them $1,800 they would have had to pay if they filed separately.

“And that’s $1,800 we didn’t have,” Maltbie said. “We’re not getting anything extra, we’re just getting equality. Nobody wanted anything extra. We just wanted the same benefits that everybody gets.”

Pastor James Bing, of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Fort Myers, said he supports marriage between a man and a woman, but has no other opinion on today’s decision.

“Because I don’t plan to marry anybody of the same sex,” he said.
But Bing said the Supreme Court lately has been issuing some rulings he describes as crazy.

“If God is wrong and they’re right, then we’ve lost nothing,” he said. “But if God is right and they’re wrong, we’re headed for some very difficult times.”

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