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Florida’s Defense of Marriage Act

The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing arguments on the rights of lesbian and gay individuals to marry partners of the same sex, and Florida’s laws may be affected.  Currently, same sex partners are not only prohibited from entering into marriage in Florida,  but Florida law also prohibits the recognition of same sex marriages that were validly sanctioned in any other state or nation.

Related:  Five Legal Steps Florida LGBT Parents Should Take

Florida has a version of the Defense of Marriage Act (section 741.212, Florida Statutes), which reads as follows:

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St. Petersburg and Clearwater Join Tampa and Gulfport in Creation of Domestic Partnership Registry

Tampa’s City Council recently approved the creation of a domestic partnership registry, which will be open to the public beginning June 25, 2012.  The cities of Saint Petersburg, Clearwater, and Gulfport have followed Tampa’s lead, and will all soon have domestic partnership registries.  The Tampa Bay Times writes:

[St. Petersburg’s] law…requires health care facilities to allow any registered domestic partner to visit their mate and make care decisions if their partner is incapacitated.

Since January, all hospitals receiving federal aid were required to allow domestic partners access to patients and the control of their care. A city registry would help local hospitals follow federal guidelines, said Jeannine Williams, an assistant city attorney.

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Rights Recognized in Tampa’s Domestic Partnership Registry

As President Obama today expressed his support for gay marriage, the State of Florida continues to define marriage as “a legal union between one man and one woman,” leaving homosexuals in loving relationships in a state of legal limbo.  Attempting to fill in the gap, many local county and municipal governments are passing “domestic partnership registries” which codify certain rights to heterosexual and homosexual partners.  Tampa, for one, has passed an ordinance creating a domestic partnership registry.

Related:  Five Legal Steps Florida LGBT Parents Should Take

[Related:  In A Florida Child Custody Case, Does It Matter That I Am Gay?]

[Related:  In Which County Should I File My Florida Adoption Case?]

Tampa’s domestic partnership law recognizes the following rights for registered partners (to the extent that these rights are not superseded by other laws or ordinances or by contract):

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A Story of Second Parent Adoption

An article from The Guardian tells the tale of two lesbian partners who went through a second parent adoption:

Related:  Five Legal Steps Florida LGBT Parents Should Take

When Patricia Moreno was pregnant with her first child, she went through the usual existential doubts about how life as a new mother would be. Moreno, a life coach and fitness trainer from New York, had been trying to get pregnant for well over a year. She had been through multiple rounds of IVF and suffered a miscarriage. When she did get pregnant, in December 2009, she and her partner, Kellen Mori, were over the moon, and then they started thinking.

The couple’s marriage was not valid outside the US or in many of the more conservative states; the baby, conceived by IVF using Mori’s eggs and donor sperm, would not be recognised federally as belonging to both of them. (Moreno, giving birth, would be recognised as the biological mother. Mori, who had provided the eggs, would have no automatic universal rights.) “I’m not the mum, but I am the mum,” thought Moreno and wondered idly who the baby would identify with more. As well as a good obstetrician, she and her wife of three years would be needing a lawyer.

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TMH v. DMT: Florida Appellate Court Recognizes Parental Rights of Both Lesbian Mothers in Case of Fertilized Egg Transplant

Here’s the story:  Two women are in a committed lesbian relationship when they decide to have a child together using reproductive technologies.  One woman (the “Genetic Mother”) supplies the egg and has it fertilized.  That egg is then implanted into her partner (the “Birth Mother”) who gives birth in 2004.

Related:  Five Legal Steps Florida LGBT Parents Should Take

[Related:  In A Florida Child Custody Case, Does It Matter That I Am Gay?]

[Related:  In Which County Should I File My Florida Adoption Case?]

The child is given a hyphenated last name, combining the names of the Birth Mother and Genetic Mother.  Birth announcements are sent out, proclaiming both partners to be mothers of the child.  The partners reside with one another and the child in Florida, and they all live happily ever after.

Until 2006, when the Birth Mother and Genetic Mother break up.

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Maryland To Recognize Gay Marriage

According to the Washington Post, Maryland will likely become the seventh state to recognize gay marriage:

Related:  Five Legal Steps Florida LGBT Parents Should Take

A bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in Maryland was approved by the state Senate, which advanced a measure that narrowly cleared the House of Delegates last week.

The final vote by the state Senate ended a yearlong drama in Annapolis over the legislation, and marked the first time an East Coast state south of the Mason-Dixon line has supported gay nuptials.

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New York Recognizes Gay Marriage. Do Floridians Have Options?

Beginning July 24, 2011, gay couples in New York will be able to apply for a marriage license.  This will make New York the sixth and largest state to recognize gay marriage.

Florida, unlike New York, does not permit gay marriage, nor does it recognize civil unions.  But there are things that partners can do to symbolize their love for one another and create certain rights and responsibilities.  You just have to be creative.

Let me give you an example.  One of the services that my firm offers is that we represent clients in name change matters.  I have heard all different reasons why a client wants a name change, including that he or she (a) has done some things he or she is not proud of and wants to turn a new leaf, (b) wants to take on the qualities of a religious or historical figure by taking on part of that figure’s name, and (c) simply does not like his or her name.

One day, a young woman came in for a consultation, and she had a touching story to tell me.  She said that she had been dating her partner for several years, and that they wanted to get married.  But, of course, Florida does not permit gay marriage.  However, this woman decided to declare her love and commitment by legally taking on her partner’s last name.  I was able to guide her through the judicial process of symbolically affirming her dedication to her partner through a name change.

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