Judge cancels Florida divorce hearing on eve of court date

By : Staff & Wire Report
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Fort Lauderdale – On Sept. 9, Broward Circuit Judge Dale Cohen cancelled the scheduled Sept. 10 hearing on a same-sex divorce case involving two women. According to his order, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi was not properly informed to appeal the ruling.

“It has come to this court’s attention that the Petitioner, Heather Brassner, has failed to comply with Florida Statute 86.091 and Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.071 by failing to notice the Office of the Attorney General of these proceedings by either registered or certified mail,” the order read.

According to Equality Florida, Brassner can re-file the motion for a re-hearing.

It’s another dramatic chapter in the ongoing effort to dissolve a civil union cemented in Vermont in 2002.

Brassner says that her estranged partner left more than four years ago and she cannot file for divorce in Florida because the state’s ban prevents recognition of the union.
Meanwhile, she cannot pursue legalizing another relationship because of the documented partnership.

Another divorce case in Hillsborough County may reach a conclusion sooner. The high court said Sept. 5 the 2nd District Court of Appeal first should rule on the case, in which a lesbian couple married in Massachusetts and is now seeking a divorce in Hillsborough County.

A lower court judge ruled that the couple couldn’t get divorced in Florida because the state’s constitution doesn’t recognize gay marriage.

Before considering the case, the appeals court in a 10-3 decision asked the Supreme Court to settle the question about the gay marriage ban.

The Supreme Court, however, agreed with three dissenting judges who said the issue wasn’t of such high importance that it had to go straight to the state’s top court.

Bondi, however, can no longer avoid the marriage equality debate. That’s according to a decision released by the Third District Court of Appeal Aug. 28

“Upon consideration, appellant’s motions to stay briefing are denied,” wrote the Third District Court of Appeal in a terse ruling.

That means Bondi’s request to hold off deciding the constitutionality of Florida’s same-sex marriage ban was shot down.

Bondi told the court she wanted to just let the U.S. Supreme Court someday rule on the issue.

Bernadette Restivo, the attorney representing Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones who are two Key West bartenders who won the right to marry in Monroe County Circuit Court, was excited about the news.

“That is the best news of the day. We would have been sitting in limbo for an undetermined amount of time,” said Restivo. “Pam Bondi’s stay would have caused enormous irreparable harm to the plaintiffs and other similarly situated. Every day that we move forward in this case will hopefully mean we are moving closer to ending this oppressive discrimination.”

Luis Garcia, Monroe’s Chief Circuit Judge, was the first judge to rule the 2008 ban unconstitutional. Florida law mandates that an automatic stay pending appeal is triggered when a public official—in this case, Bondi—loses a court case.

Shortly after Garcia’s decision, Judge Sarah Zabel came to the same conclusion when she heard a case involving six same-sex couples who wanted their marriages recognized or be granted the right to marry in the Sunshine State.

Now, the two cases will be joined together. The appeals court agreed to the plaintiffs’ request to consolidate the Monroe and Miami-Dade cases, so they can be heard together in appeal.

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