Florida could be affected by two U.S. Supreme Court cases scheduled for hearing today and Wednesday that challenge laws against gay marriage.
One case challenges California’s Proposition 8, which would effectively ban gay marriage. The other addresses the national Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law that recognizes marriage as a union between a man and a woman, said Joseph Jackson, a senior legal skills professor at the UF Levin College of Law and an associate director for the Center on Children and Families.
Jackson said if the court decides against Proposition 8 in broad terms, the ruling could compel other states like Florida to lift bans on same-sex marriage.
Florida only recognizes marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman, according to the Florida Constitution. It was proposed by an initiative petition in 2005 and adopted in 2008.
The Supreme Court may rule that California violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment because it allows opposite-sex couples to receive a traditional marriage but denies same-sex couples the same right, he said.
In light of a possible Supreme Court decision like this, state agencies that issue marriage licenses in states that ban gay marriage would likely issue same-sex couples marriage licenses to prevent them from filing lawsuits, he said.
Jackson said the case regarding the Defense of Marriage Act has the potential to affect all 50 states. The provision of the act present in the case only affects federal laws and would not directly affect Florida’s laws.
A decision against the marriage act would only impact same-sex couples legally married under state law, Jackson said. They would be treated as married in federal law, meaning they could receive benefits like joint tax returns or Social Security.
LB Hannahs, director of LGBT Affairs at UF, said the California ban being lifted would mean another step forward for the LGBT community.
“It’s a small win because it’s another state recognizing it,” she said.
Jackson said even if the court upholds Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act, more states will recognize same-sex marriage because there’s a trend of increasing public support for gay marriage.
“Marriage is a very important relationship, and people care very much about who is able to get married,” he said.