Orlando mayor signs onto brief supporting marriage equality

By : Jamie Hyman
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Orlando – City of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer has the support he needs from the City Council to co-sign an amicus brief in support of marriage equality.

The brief was filed the moment the measure got the required amount of yes votes.

Here’s the summary, from the City Council’s June 23 agenda:

“The City of Orlando has been asked to join other Florida cities in supporting those who are seeking marriage equality in Florida by filing amicus curiae or ‘friend of the court’ briefs explaining why lifting the gay marriage ban is good for cities. There are currently four marriage equality cases pending in Florida. The City of Miami Beach Attorney’s office is expected to be the primary author of the briefs which include arguments that lifting the ban is good for the health and welfare of our citizens and employees to live in a non-discriminatory environment and that lifting the ban is positive for economic development and tourism. The briefs will not take a major time commitment and will be done in-house by our City Attorney’s office.”

Two Council members voted in opposition to the brief. Councilman Jim Gray said it’s an important issue but one that should not be dealt with at the city level. Councilman Tony Ortiz said he’s “voting no based on philosophical ideas [sic]” and informed the council chambers that he has “gay friends.”

Councilwoman Patty Sheehan then spoke passionately in favor of the motion.

“Personally, I am distressed in this day and age that there would be any dissent in protecting our citizens,” Sheehan said, before telling the story of her own domestic partnership with ended abruptly and unexpectedly after just 90 days.

“After [the relationship] ended, my ex-partner’s family came into my home and took what they wanted,” Sheehan said, when pointing out protections enjoyed by married couples which gay couples in domestic partnerships do not have. “I have never been so violated in my entire life.”

One lawsuit, Pareto v. Ruvin, argues that Florida’s laws barring same-sex couples from marriage violate the United States Constitution by denying them the legal protections and equal dignity that having the freedom to marry provides. The plaintiffs are six South Florida same-sex couples who wish to marry and the Equality Florida Institute. They are represented by the law firm Carlton Fields Jorden Burt, Elizabeth F. Schwartz, Mary B. Meeks, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR). There are also currently four other lawsuits seeking LGBT equality as it relates to various marriage rights – the amicus brief with Mayor Dyer’s signature will be filed in all of those cases.

Sheehan added that marriage protections are taken for granted when they are automatically received.

“I can get married tomorrow in a church, but I can’t have the rights and protections that come with that. That’s all the gay and lesbian community is asking for,” Sheehan said. “The fact that our state and federal leaders are having concerns about that is absurd to me. I’m just fighting for my own personal equality.”

She also said, “It’s not enough to say you have gay friends. Equality is for everyone.”

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