New York, December 19, 2014—Florida marriage laws violate the constitutional rights of lesbians and gay men to marry the person of their choice and to have that marriage recognized, Columbia Law School’s Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic argues in an amicus brief filed today with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.
In the brief filed in a pair of consolidated cases, Brenner v. Armstrong and Grimsley v. Armstrong, Columbia Law School Professor Suzanne B. Goldberg argues that the U.S. Constitution’s due process and equal protection guarantee have long been understood to protect against government interference in fundamental personal decision making, including the choice of one’s spouse. In fact, Florida imposes few restrictions on the choices of married couples but nevertheless prohibits people from choosing a spouse of the same sex.
“On the whole, Florida’s marriage laws impose few restrictions on adults’ choice of marital partners and on the recognition of valid marriages. Yet, by contrast, Florida imposes a singular, categorical, and constitutionally impermissible burden on lesbians and gay men who seek to exercise their fundamental right to marry their chosen partner and to have that marriage recognized,” writes Goldberg.
Goldberg’s clinic, founded in 2006, has filed amicus briefs in numerous cases challenging state bans on marriage rights for same-sex couples in the wake of the 2013 U.S. v. Windsor decision striking down a provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act barring recognition of same-sex couples’ marriages.
“At this point, the majority of states allow same-sex couples to marry, which reinforces that Florida’s ban is not only unconstitutional but also out of step with the nation’s growing realization that denying marriage rights in this way is anti-American,” said Goldberg. “Florida’s ban also causes direct and immediate harm to Florida families, who are treated as legal strangers in the eyes of the law,” she added.
Columbia Law School Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic students Lucas Qijing Fu ’15 and Julia Maddera ’16 assisted with research for and preparation of the brief.