Hundreds of Law Enforcement, First Responders, Clergy and Businesses Sign Onto Amici Supporting Florida Marriage Equality
Sign Onto Amici Supporting Florida Marriage Ban Challenge
In more than 25 unique amicus briefs that have been or will be submitted this week to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, scores of first responders, law enforcement officials, states, cities, faith leaders and businesses urge the court to end Florida’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples. The briefs show the depth and diversity of support for the plaintiffs in the Florida cases and for the freedom of gay and lesbian couples to marry.
Florida is one of 15 states where same-sex couples do not have the fundamental right to marry. On Aug. 21, a District Court judge ruled that Florida’s marriage ban is unconstitutional, but the ruling was stayed until Jan. 5, 2015. Just last week, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a request from Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi to extend the stay, refusing to delay the freedom to marry in Florida. The stay will now expire on Jan. 5, even as the appeal in the Florida marriage cases proceed in the 11th Circuit. An oral argument in Atlanta, where the 11th Circuit is based, is not yet scheduled.
Some of the notable briefs that have been or will be submitted include:
First responders and law enforcement: More than 200 first responders and law enforcement signed on to a brief, including Chief Jane Castor, Chief of Police, Tampa Police Department; Chief David Frisby, Police Chief (Ret.), Monticello Police Department; Chief Sharon Lippman, Battalion Chief (Ret.), Tallahassee Fire Department; Chief Walt McNeil, Police Chief (Ret.), Tallahassee Police; and Cindy Dick, Fire Chief (Ret.), Tallahassee Fire Department.
“I have worked beside and supervised lesbian cops. They did the same job and paid the same dues as I did. They deserve the same legal rights and protections that I enjoy,” said Chief Frisby.
Clergy and Religious Leaders. Leo Frade, Bishop of the Diocese of Southeast Florida, Trinity Cathedral, Episcopalian, Miami; and Rev. Gloria Van Houten, United Church of Christ Minister and Member of The Open and Affirming Ministry Team, Sarasota, are among the more than 200 signers of a religious communities brief.
“Jesus saw fit to conduct his first miracle at a wedding at Cana in Galilee,” said Bishop Frade. “As I near the end of my tenure here as Bishop of Southeast Florida, I hope my last miracle will be to marry two friends in Christ who have been prevented from doing so for far too long.”
Businesses. Major American companies located in Florida, Alabama and Georgia, including Delta Air Lines, Inc.; Alcoa; Bloomberg; Levi Strauss & Co.; CBS Corporation; eBay, Inc.; General Electric Company; Marriott International, Inc.; Pfizer, Inc.; Symantec Corporation; Viacom Inc.; Deutsche Bank AG; Electronic Arts Inc.; Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant Group, LLC; Staples; Sun Life Financial U.S.; Target; United Therapeutics; and SHS Management, LLC, signed onto a business and employers brief. The brief also includes dozens of small businesses across the three states and argues: “State laws and constitutions denying marriage to gay and lesbian citizens are bad for our businesses. Amici are forced to bear unnecessary costs, complexity, and risk in managing our companies, and we are hampered in our efforts to recruit and retain the most talented workforce possible—all of which places us at a competitive disadvantage. Our success depends upon the welfare and morale of all employees, without distinction.”
Cities and Counties. Representing cities and counties across Florida, Broward County, Palm Beach County, Orange County, Alachua County, City of Coconut Creek, City of Gainesville, City of Hallandale Beach, City of Key West, City of Miami Beach, City of Orlando, City of St. Petersburg, City of South Miami, City of Tallahassee, City of Tampa, City of West Palm Beach, City of Wilton Manors and Village of Biscayne Park signed onto a brief.
“Miami Beach is proud to lead the government voice for marriage equality in Florida as the only party – public or private – to appear in every single appeal challenging Florida’s denial of marriage,” said Robert Rosenwald, First Assistant City Attorney for Miami Beach. “Now 16 large local governments join us in arguing that Florida’s prohibition on marriage for gay and lesbian couples impedes our ability to fulfill our core mission of providing for the health and welfare of our residents.”
“The breadth and depth of these amici briefs demonstrate the groundswell of support for the freedom to marry,” said Nadine Smith, CEO of Equality Florida. “A Federal district court in Florida has now joined the 60 other state and federal courts – including four federal appellate courts – who over the past year have affirmed the freedom to marry and held the denial of marriage to be unconstitutional. We believe when the 11th Circuit justices consider this case and makes note of the diversity of support, they, too, will affirm the right of everyone to marry the person they love.”
The Florida cases before the 11th Circuit are Armstrong v. Brenner, filed by private counsel, and Secretary, Florida Dept of Health v. Grimsley, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida on behalf of SAVE, an LGBT organization in Miami, and almost a dozen married and unmarried same-sex couples seeking the freedom to marry or respect for their marriages legally performed in other states.
Equality Florida is the largest civil rights organization dedicated to securing full equality for Florida's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.