2019 Bill Would Abolish Florida's Old Marriage Law

Jan 15, 2019

Legislation filed at the state Capitol for the 2019 session would repeal a state law, which limited marriage to opposite-sex couples.

House Bill 6009 and Senate Bill 254 would strike the unenforceable law – limiting marriage to a union of one man and one woman - from the books. Senator Gary Farmer, a Democrat from Ft. Lauderdale, is a co-sponsor.

“It is our hope that in repealing this antiquated law, we give recognition to the power of love and the right that every person has, regardless of their sexual orientation, to express that love,” said Farmer.

Notably, all four of the lawmakers sponsoring the measures are straight. Same-sex couples have had the right to marry in Florida since 2015, and court rulings since have confirmed that right.

“We’ve reached a point in our history where it seems to be a given that America his heading in the direction of equal rights for all,” said Brian Heike, President of Gay Grassroots of Northwest Florida. “You see it in our media, our TV shows, [and] our movies.”

“As people get to know LGBT people in their daily lives, they’re understanding that they’re basically no different from anyone else,” said Heike. “It’s the direction the country is going in, and I would find it really hard to believe that we could take a step backwards.”

Brian Heike, President of Gay Grassroots of Northwest Florida.
Credit Brian Heike

In all candor, Heike says he’s hadn’t given much thought to the obsolete law, figuring the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision had pretty much ended the discussion and was the final word on marital rights.

“To find out that this is still on the books seems initially like an oversight,” Heike said. “I understand the sense of closure it would give LGBT people in the state of Florida to have that gone from the books. Even if federal law supersedes it.”

Many LGBT rights groups say there’s a symbolic meaning in repealing the obsolete law. Others say a repeal would also be important if a more conservative future U.S. Supreme Court were to once again allow marriage to be a states’ rights issue and the law reinstated.

There’s also the matter of separation of church and state, says Heike.

“I don’t think [marriage] should be dictated to us from a religious standpoint, particularly when it’s not even a belief held by all Christians,” said Heike. “It’s just a conservative few. I would like to make sure that we don’t have something in place that would be a fallback that would turn back the clock for us.”

When the measures are introduced, Gay Grassroots President Brian Heike says they’ll be watching with more than just casual interest because they’re at a point where equality under the law is at their fingertips.

“We cannot see that slip backward,” Heike says. “It’s been too long a road; we’ve put too much energy into it, and the bottom line is: we’re citizens, we’re taxpayers, we’re your neighbors, your relatives, your friends. We deserve equal treatment and equal opportunity.”

Meanwhile, equality advocates are criticizing new Gov. Ron DeSantis for failing to address LGBT rights in a new non-discrimination order for employees and contractors. Sexual orientation and gender identity are not listed.