Lesbian couple denied divorce in Hillsborough

By : Staff Report
Comments: 0

Tampa – A lesbian couple living in Hillsborough County cannot divorce in Florida, a county judge ruled on May 9. The decision has set up an appeal of the state law that bans marriage equality in Florida.

Circuit Judge Laurel M. Lee dismissed the divorce petition of Mariama Monique Changamire Shaw and Keiba Lynn Shaw. The couple was married in Massachusetts in 2010 and now lives in Tampa. They filed for divorce through the Florida courts in January of this year.

An attempted uncontested divorce hearing in March led to an April 22 hearing, where Lee considered the request and even delayed her ruling.

However, the judge eventually said she could not grant a divorce for a marriage that isn’t recognized in the state. She cited a 2008 constitutional Amendment voters added with 62% of the vote.

“Inasmuch marriage is the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife, no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized,” the amendment reads.

Brett Rahall, attorney for Changamire Shaw, said his client would appeal to the Second District Court of Appeal, setting up what may be the first official challenge to the state law.

They argue that the divorce does not violate the marriage ban since it would eradicate the marriage and that the marriage ban violates the equal protection clause of the Florida and U.S. Constitutions.

The Shaw case would not be the first divorce to challenge a marriage equality ban in the United States. The Wyoming Supreme Court did not strike down its marriage ban but made it legal for all couples to divorce. In Missouri last month, a county judge granted a divorce even though that state bars same-sex unions.

Other lawsuits fighting Florida’s ban on marriage equality are also making their way to the Florida Supreme Court. The ACLU and the Equality Florida Institute are among parties challenging the amendment through the legal system.

Share this story: