A Florida woman is challenging the state’s ban on same-sex marriage because it is preventing her from getting a divorce. Maria Matheau’s suit in Leon Circuit Court argues four fundamental rights guaranteed under the Florida Constitution are violated by the state failing to recognize her marriage.
The suit comes in the shadows of Attorney General Pam Bondi Thursday requesting a stay of all same-sex cases until the U.S. Supreme Court decides the issue. Bondi has been defending the 2008 amendment in South Florida cases where couples seeking to marry have sued and judges had declared Florida’s one man, one woman marriage statute unconstitutional. Rather than continue the battle at the state level she argued the state should wait for the Court to settle the issue nationally. She expects the Court to act soon on the issue.
“A ruling from the United States Supreme Court would end the constitutional debate, end this appeal and end all related cases,. The State of Florida will respect the United States Supreme Court’s final word,” Bondi wroe to the 3rd District Court of Appeal.
“It will be at least a year before any one of those cases get before the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Matheau’s attorney Rob McNeely.
Those cases involved people wanting to marry and arguing their cases based on the U.S. Constitution. Matheau wants to end a marriage and she’s arguing the Florida Constitution allows her to do so.
For same-sex couple living in states where their marriage is not recognize breaking up is hard to do. The problems they face range from lacking enforceable court orders to divide joint assists and debts to still being saddled with legal obligations to their estranged spouse.
“Look at it this way, they don’t hate each other. They are just ready to end their marriage. But if something were to happen to her spouse, she would not be allowed to make any medical decisions for her. And yet she’s not allowed to divorce her, either,” said McNeely.
In 2008, 62 percent of Florida voters supported a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
The ballot initiative read: “Inasmuch as marriage is the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife, no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized.”
Matheau argues the state law that implemented the amendment is unconstitutional because it prevents her from exercising four rights guaranteed by the Florida Constitution:
- The right to access to the Courts,
- The right to due process of the law,
- The right to equal protection of the law,
- The right to privacy, the right to be free of government intrusion into our lives.
“There’s no reason to require Florida citizens to wait on a federal court decision,” said McNeely. “If a decision of the highest court in a state is based on the state constitution then it’s not reviewable by the U.S. Supreme Court.”
Matheau filed her suit Friday morning in the Second Judicial Circuit Court in Leon County.