Florida’s marriage decision sets stage for South

A member of Coral Gables United Church of Chirst walks with members of his congregation down Ocean Drive in South Beach during the 5th annual Pride Parade held in April 2012. File Photo

During Pride Awareness Week in April, UPride, the on-campus LGBTQ student organization formerly known as SpectrUM, hosts Marriages on the Rock, an event that allows for students to “marry” their friends regardless of sexual orientation. On Jan. 6, the state of Florida legalized same-sex marriage, making the idea of marriage equality a reality.

In the weeks since the freedom to marry was added to the Florida Statute, students and staff at the University of Miami remain enthusiastic.

“This ruling will help Florida lead the South in becoming a more fair and inclusive society,” said Jacob Rudolph, president of UPride. “Tens of millions of dollars will be added to the Florida economy from same-sex couples honeymooning and marrying in our state.”

Rudolph’s analysis appears true in light of a story published in The Huffington Post on Jan. 6. Florida has become a prime wedding destination for many same-sex couples, and people have been flooding into the state since the law was announced.

In 2008, Florida passed an anti-marriage constitutional amendment denying same-sex couples the right to marry and prohibiting same-sex couples from attaining any form of legal family status. For years, all across the country, people have been lobbying, protesting and marching to grant all individuals the right to legally marry.

“This was a major policy decision, right under the federal level,” said Katharine Westaway, a professor in the Women and Gender Studies department. “But even then, this is a fight that has been fought for a long time. It took way too long to come to all of the states.”

As of Jan. 6, 36 states have marriage equality, but same-sex couples are still denied marriage rights in a states including Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky and Tennessee.

“By the withholding of marriage equality, same-sex couples have missed out on 1,138 benefits and protections under federal law,” Westaway said.

These benefits include that the surviving spouse and surviving parent rights granted under Social Security laws are denied to those who are not legally married; certain provisions of the tax code defining “child” base this definition on the marital status of parents and caregivers, and the Family and Medical Leave Act does not provide leave for domestic partners or the parents of domestic partners.

“Marriage is a foundational institution that everyone should be able to participate in,” said Westaway. “This affects the children of couples as well.”

Louise Davidson-Schmich, a professor at UM who is teaching a course on LGBT politics this semester, explained that the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) will hold a ruling on same-sex marriage in the spring.

“After the court rules it will become clearer what options are open to opponents of same-sex marriage,” Davidson-Schmich said. “However, the tide of public opinion makes clear that citizens of your generation are in favor of marriage equality, so in the long run I think opponents are going to have a difficult time gaining support for their ideas.”

Despite a success in Florida, Rudolph hopes the SCOTUS ruling “will bend in our favor.”

“All we can do now is wait and see,” he added.

UPride is hosting “Speak for the Streets,” a Social Justice Open Mic from 7-9 p.m. Wednesday at the Lakeside Stage. Students can sign up to perform and express their opinions at bit.do/UPrideOM