MIAMI BEACH (CBSMiami) – The American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday on behalf of eight South Florida same-sex couples that seeks to force the state of Florida to recognize the couples’ marriages performed in other states and recognized by the federal government.
“We want the state of Florida to recognize our family and our marriage,” said one of the plaintiffs, Denise Hueso.
Hueso and her wife Sandra Newson left South Florida for Boston to get married 17 years ago. They adopted a 10-year-old son and decided to move back home to South Florida to be closer to family. They say they want equal rights and equal protection under the law.
“In Massachusetts they changed the law and the change of perceptions followed,” Hueso said. “Here I think the change of perceptions are starting and now we have to change the law.”
Another couple on the lawsuit is a firefighter from Palm Beach Gardens named Sloan Grimsley and her wife Joyce Albu. They have children and are fearful that if something happened to Grimsley in the line of duty, Albu wouldn’t receive support offered to spouses of first responders killed in the line of duty.
“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,” stated Grimsley. “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.”
Thomas Gantt married his husband 16 years ago in Washington, DC. The couple adopted a son and said day-to-day things have been a struggle with Florida not recognizing the marriage.
“We want him to grow up in a world where he understands that his parents fought for what is right and that he’s also protected in case something ever happens to either one of us,” said Gantt.
In addition to the eight couples, the group SAVE is a plaintiff in the case. The ACLU said SAVE works to protect the rights and protections of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.
“These eight couples have all the rights and responsibilities of marriage in the states where they exchanged vows, and the federal government recognizes their marriages as well,” stated Daniel Tilley, LGBT rights attorney for the ACLU of Florida. “It’s time for Florida to stop the harmful practice of treating committed couples as if they are strangers.”
The new lawsuit comes a little more than a month after six gay and lesbian couples filed suit in Miami-Dade circuit court challenging Florida’s ban on same sex marriages. Activists believe the time is ripe for legal challenges to Florida’s prohibition as courts continue to strike-down anti-same-sex laws.
The Supreme Court started the initial wave of suits last year when it struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act. However, the high court didn’t strike down all laws related to gay marriage, just the federal law.
“Our historic victory in last year’s Supreme Court case striking down DOMA means that many loving and committed Floridians have marriages that are recognized by the federal government,” stated ACLU of Florida Executive Director Howard Simon. “Sadly, Florida refuses to recognize those marriages, often at significant cost to their families. 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.”
The lawsuit filed Wednesady named Governor Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Florida Surgeon General and Secretary Of Health John Armstrong and Secretary of the Florida Department Of Management Services Craig Nichols as defendants.
Previously, Attorney General Bondi said she would defend the state’s ban on same-sex marriage in court if she’s asked. In 2008, nearly 62 percent of Florida voters approved the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
“This is a constitutional amendment that the voters passed…so my job is to defend that,” Bondi, a Republican running for re-election this year told reporters Wednesday.
For the couples fighting in the latest lawsuit, they say they want one thing.
“Ensure that all Florida same-sex couple who have been legally married elsewhere to have all the protections and responsibilities that come with marriage,” Tilley said.