Legislature again ignores proposal to delete dead law banning same-sex marriage

Same sex marriage cake
Same-sex marriage has been legal since 2015, but you wouldn’t know it reading Florida Statutes.

The Republican-controlled Florida Legislature has again declined to consider measures that would erase from state statutes an unusable law barring recognition of marriage between people of the same sex.

This Session, Boca Raton Sen. Tina Polksy and St. Petersburg Rep. Michele Rayner carried bills this year (SB 168; HB 6015) calling for such action, with co-sponsorship support from Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book and Rep. Anna Eskamani.

Democratic lawmakers have sought for years to overturn the law, which has existed as a defunct totem of discrimination since 2015, when the Florida Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage.

Polsky and Rayner filed identical bills for the 2021 Session as well. They argued their legislation is needed in case the Supreme Court ruling is overturned in the future.

But as was the case in their prior efforts and other previous pushes by Eskamani, Sen. Gary Farmer and former Reps. Adam Hattersley and David Richardson, Polsky and Rayner this year ran into insurmountable opposition from their GOP colleagues.

This year, neither of their bills received a single committee hearing despite being filed in September — four months before regular Session convened. The result: Those seeking equal rights, both actual and expressed in Florida law, will likely have to wait until 2023 for another chance to delete the statute.

Florida’s law banning same-sex marriage stems from the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1997 statute declaring the state only recognizes marriage between a man and a woman. Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles signed the statute into law roughly a year after President Bill Clinton signed similar federal legislation.

While both laws have since been declared unconstitutional, the one in Florida is still in place.

Public opinion has changed markedly since the ban on same-sex marriage was repealed. In a 2015 survey by St. Pete Polls, 38.5% of respondents believed it to be a “bad thing,” while 34.2% said it was a good thing and 27.3% said they were neutral or undecided on the subject.

More recently, Public Policy Polling found two-thirds of Floridians supported some sort of legal recognition for same-sex couples, with 33% supporting full marriage equality and 34% preferring civil unions. Just 31% said they opposed any legal recognition.

That tracks with a June 2021 Gallup poll, which reported that 70% of respondents nationwide back legal same-sex marriage — a 10-percentage-point increase since 2015 and a new high in the trend toward support for equal marriage rights, which sat at 27% when Gallup first asked the question in 1997.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


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