Just in case you thought the fight was over…
I guess the honeymoon is officially over, at least here in the Sunshine State. We had a great summer, coming off the victory in the Supreme Court in the marriage equality cases, but recently the LGBT community got another slap in the face by our belovedmused Attorney General.
First, we found out that Florida was continuing to treat LGBT parents as second-class citizens by refusing to list both legally married partners on the birth certificates of their children. Then, in the same week, it was announced that Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi objected to a motion to have the state reimburse the attorneys who represented the victorious LGBT couples who won the right to marry in Florida.
Just a couple weeks ago, on August 13, Equality Florida announced that it was going back to court to continue fighting for our community. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a lesbian couple Cathy Pareto and Karla Arguello, who Equality Florida calls the “first same-sex couple married in Florida,” after the couple gave birth to twins but the hospital where they were born denied Cathy the right to add her name to the children’s birth certificates. Almost a year since Florida’s marriage ban was declared unconstitutional, the Florida Bureau of Vital Statistics is still refusing to allow hospitals to list both same-sex parents on their baby’s birth certificate. The suit alleges that:
The Bureau complies with Section 382.013(2)(a) for children born to opposite-sex spouses by entering the husband’s name on the birth certificate as the child’s second parent when a married woman gives birth to a child and there is no court order finding someone other than the husband to be the child’s legal parent. When a child is born to a woman who is married to another woman, however, the Bureau refuses to comply with Section 382.013(2)(a) and will not issue accurate birth certificates listing both parents to each of the Plaintiff couples. Instead, the Bureau will issue only a certificate that falsely indicates that the child has only one parent and that omits the mother’s spouse as the child’s second parent. Defendants’ refusal to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples on the same terms and conditions as the marriages of opposite-sex couples when issuing birth certificates violates the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
“Attorney General Pam Bondi could have avoided yet another costly lawsuit by directing all state agencies to simply comply with the law. Instead she turned her back on repeated requests to take action,” said Nadine Smith, Executive Director of Equality Florida. “Birth certificates are the first official document that represent a newborn baby’s family. Having an inaccurate birth certificate hinders parents’ ability to take care of their child and access important legal benefits and protections. Denying our families this is not only spiteful and harmful, it is illegal.”
Why does the Attorney General have such a problem with the LGBT community? The news about the lawsuit is bad enough, but that wasn’t the only way her office continued to show its contempt and disregard for us. Just days later, news broke that the AG had balked at paying the legal fees for the winning lawyers in marriage equality cases after several rounds of mindless appeals. Bondi, who could have stopped the legal wrangling long before the Supreme Court decision, kept appealing, thus costing the state more and more in legal fees. Her decision caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees to pile up, and, apparently, it’s common procedure for the losing side to pay the legal fees of the winning side. You can be sure that if the decision had gone the other way, the state would be hitting up our side for a hefty legal bill.
“It’s ludicrous,” said Elizabeth White, a Jacksonville civil rights attorney who helped bring one of the cases that challenged the state’s gay marriage ban. “Quite frankly, the state vigorously litigated this. Now they’re saying, ‘We lost, but we don’t want to pay.’ ”
LGBT Floridians, the fight is far from over. We must not take our eyes off the ball, because our very leaders have proven time and time again that they will not protect us, even when they have taken a solemn vow to do so. Obviously, that statement doesn’t apply to all of our leaders, but it seems like the ones who make the rules are only continuing the same old tune of legislating discrimination towards us. It’s time we change the channel and listen to a new tune.