Judge Grants Florida’s First Same-Sex Divorce

On December 17 Circuit Judge Dale Cohen dissolved the marriage of a Vermont couple, now residing in Florida. The two were united in a 2002 civil union, but were unable to obtain a divorce in Florida for five years, since their relationship ended. It was questionable whether a Florida judge could issue a divorce, since the license was issued in Vermont. However Florida’s Attorney General Pam Bondi said she would not immediately stand in the way of the case, allowing Judge Cohen to proceed.

The woman who filed for divorce stated that it was the greatest “holiday gift” she could ever receive, and said it was “like an emotional weight being lifted off” off her shoulders. Curiously, her partner did not take part in the proceedings, as she had not been seen for several years, with a private detective also unable to locate her.

Circuit Judge Dale Cohen declared both Florida’s statutory and constitutional bans on same sex marriage, and recognition thereof, void, unenforceable and unconstitutional. They violate the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection and due process.

“This is a historic day. This is the first divorce for a same-sex couple. It will not be the last divorce,” said the divorcee’s attorney Nancy Brodzki. This is noteworthy as the state does not recognize the legal marriages of same-sex couples performed in other jurisdictions, even for the purposes of granting divorces.

Because the ruling came in a divorce case, it has the effect of also declaring that out-of-state gay marriages should be recognized in Florida. It does not mean same-sex marriage licenses can be issued in Broward County until after Jan. 5.

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