Rich-Vaughn-Blog-Florida-Marriage-Equality

Same-Sex Couples File Suit for Marriage Equality in Florida

Six couples and Equality Florida Institute filed suit yesterday asking a Florida state court to overturn Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage on the grounds that it violates their rights under the U.S. Constitution. The plaintiffs, which include four couples with young children in the home and one couple with an adult child and grandchildren, are represented by law firm Carlton Fields Jorden Burt, attorney Elizabeth F. Schwartz, attorney Mary B. Meeks, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), according to a news release issued by NCLR and Equality Florida Institute.

At a time when laws prohibiting same-sex marriage have been overturned or are being challenged all over the U.S., the Florida suit stands out because the state historically has been especially averse to LGBT equal rights. As reported by The Miami Herald, in 2008, almost 62 percent of voters passed Amendment 2, which “amended the state Constitution to ban gay marriage, along with recognition of legal same-sex marriages performed elsewhere and domestic partnerships.” Under a 1977 ordinance “homosexuals” in Florida were prohibited from adopting children, a ban finally overturned in September 2010 by the Third District Court of Appeals in a case binding on lower courts.

Gay activists believe public opinion in Florida has changed since the 2008 defeat at the ballot box, reports The Miami Herald.

A March 2013 survey by Public Policy Polling found 75 percent of Florida voters favor allowing gay people either to marry (38 percent) or to have civil unions (37 percent).

NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter, who helped bring the 2010 case to allow LGBT people in Florida to adopt, told the Herald:

“Florida has often been on the cutting edge for civil rights issues and protections for the south, culturally and politically. An influential state. What happens in Florida really matters, not only for the folks here, but across the whole country.”

Despite changing public opinion, the Florida suit is expected to take years to make its way through the court system; the state’s political leadership remains opposed to same-sex marriage, and Attorney General Pam Bondi is expected to vigorously defend the state’s ban.

Several of the plaintiffs in this week’s filing spoke of their desire to win equal protection for their families. Currently the non-biological parent in a same-sex couple who has children via assisted reproductive technology in Florida is required to undergo a second-parent adoption.

Were same-sex marriage to be legalized, it is quite likely that both spouses would be automatically deemed legal parents of children born within the marriage, subject of course to a court order of parentage, which is required in surrogacy cases in Florida.

Two of the plaintiffs in the Florida case, Dr. Juan Carlos Rodriguez and David Price, have been together for nearly 18 years and are parents of 3-year-old twins, a boy and a girl, according to the Equality Florida Institute news release. “Being a doctor, I see people and families in crisis all the time,” said Rodriguez, a specialist in pulmonary medicine. “In those situations, family and the legal protections that come with it are critical. It pains David and me to be denied a basic safety net of legal protections.”

Here’s hoping that equal protection under the law comes swiftly for the Rodriguez-Price family and for all Florida families.

Rich Vaughn
Richard Vaughn
rich@iflg.net

Attorney Rich Vaughn is founder and principal of International Fertility Law Group, one of the world’s largest and best-known law firms focused exclusively on assisted reproductive technology, or ART, including in vitro fertilization (IVF), surrogacy, sperm donation or egg donation. Rich is co-author of the book “Developing A Successful Assisted Reproduction Technology Law Practice,” American Bar Association Publishing, 2017.

Peiya Wang
PEIYA WANG(王培娅)
Paralegal (律师助理)

Peiya Wang joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2015, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases and provides translation services for many of IFLG’s international clients. Peiya received her bachelor’s degree from Beijing Technologies and Business University, where she majored in Marketing. She moved to the United States in 2012 to attend Northeast University in Boston, Massachusetts, receiving a Master of Science degree in Global Studies and International Affairs in 2014. Peiya moved to Los Angeles in 2015 and received her paralegal certification from UCLA Extension. When away from the office, Peiya is a dragon boat paddler and a ballroom dancer, where she favors Rumbas and Cha-chas. She is fluent in Mandarin and English.

Luis Sosa
LUIS SOSA
Paralegal

Luis R. Sosa joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2016, where he enjoys pursuing his passion for family and reproductive law. While working toward his bachelor’s degree at Florida International University, Luis worked as a paralegal and legal assistant for family law litigation firms in Miami and Washington, D.C. As a paralegal and case manager for IFLG, Luis, who is bilingual in English and Spanish, manages surrogacy, egg donation and other reproductive law cases. In addition to spending time with husband Randy and dog Marty, Luis enjoys being outdoors and appreciating the arts.

Toni Hughes
TONI HUGES
Paralegal

After receiving her B.S. in Business Management, Toni joined IFLG to pursue her dream of working in the legal field. As a Paralegal with over 10 years of experience in the assisted reproduction technology field, Toni is our Managing Paralegal, responsible for training and managing our paralegal staff. From drafting legal documents to assisting our clients with post-birth matters, Toni embraces the challenge of learning something new in this field each day. Besides spending time with her son, Jordan, Toni enjoys exploring new things, cooking, spending time with family and friends, and serving as a Youth Advisor for “Next Generation.”

Miesha Cowart
MIESHA COWART
Financial Coordinator

Miesha Cowart joined IFLG as a financial specialist in 2014 following a successful career in development and business finance. Miesha previously worked for 10 years in the construction industry as a controller and for 13 years as Development Coordinator for the non-profit U.S. Fund for UNICEF. In her free time, Miesha works with “Next Generation” at her church. “They are my heartbeats!” she says of the youth in her community.

Kim
KIM DEVEREAUX
Paralegal

Kim has over 25 years of experience in the legal field and has worked exclusively in surrogacy and assisted reproduction law since 1999. Kim is a senior case manager of surrogacy and egg donation cases, and is also responsible for managing parental establishment cases and interacting with IFLG’s Of Counsel attorneys across the country. With three children of her own, Kim understands the importance of family and finds working in this area of law a rewarding experience.

Rich Vaughn
RICHARD B. VAUGHN
Founder

Attorney Rich Vaughn combined his personal passion as a father of twin boys born via assisted reproductive technology (ART) with more than 20 years of experience in business and technology law to build International Fertility Law Group. Today IFLG is one of the most successful and best-known law firms in the world focused exclusively on fertility law, helping thousands of intended parents through empathetic listening, compassionate guidance, and unmatched legal expertise. As an advocate for reproductive freedom, Rich also contributes his knowledge and time to improving the understanding and practice of ART law, most recently as a founder of and speaker at the first Cambridge University International Surrogacy Symposium held in June 2019, as immediate past chair of the American Bar Association ART Committee, and as a popular presenter to law schools, faculty and advocacy organizations all over the world.

Elizabeth Tamayo
ELIZABETH TAMAYO
Paralegal

Elizabeth received her Bachelors of Science degree in Criminal Justice from California State University of Los Angeles. Shortly after graduating, she continued her education at the University of California, Los Angeles where she obtained her Paralegal certificate. Elizabeth is fluent in Spanish and has been in the legal field since 2009. She is excited to be a part of the IFLG Team helping families realize their dreams.

Sunny Chien
SUNNY CHIEN
Paralegal

Sunny joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2017, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases for many of IFLG’s international clients. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from California State University of Los Angeles, where she graduated cum laude. Sunny is bilingual in English and Mandarin and has extensive experience as a legal assistant and paralegal at Los Angeles-area law firms. She is excited to be part of the IFLG team. In her spare time, Sunny enjoys spending time with her family and their dog, going to the beach, cooking, and being outdoors.

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MOLLY O'BRIEN
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Fertility law attorney Molly O’Brien began working in the field of assisted reproduction technology (ART) in 2005, at an egg donation agency and a surrogacy agency where she became familiar with all aspects of in-vitro fertilization, egg donation and the financial aspects of surrogacy. Since becoming an attorney in 2011, Molly has drafted and negotiated surrogacy, egg donation, sperm donation embryo donation agreements for hundreds of her clients all over the world.