FLORIDA: Federal Court Orders State To Reissue Death Certificates To Reflect Pre-Obergefell Marriages

CBC Miami reports:

Gay marriage has been a hot topic in and out of courtrooms for the past several years. Another issue is being fixed to help those who lost loved ones before the epic court ruling.

Florida widows and widowers whose spouses died before the U.S. Supreme Court declared state bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional can have the death certificates of their loved ones changed without having to go to court, a federal judge ruled Thursday.

The decision in favor of gay widows and widowers is the latest ruling from U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle against the state on the issue of same-sex marriages and was hailed as a major victory by Lambda Legal, which represented the plaintiffs in a class-action suit filed in 2015.

The plaintiffs sought to have the death certificates of their spouses show they had been married, but the state argued that Florida law prohibited officials from changing the documents without a court order. “Not so,” Hinkle wrote in Thursday’s eight-page opinion.

Hinckle, not incidentally, was the judge who first struck down Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage in November 2014. More from Slate:

As Hinkle explained in his succinct but emphatic decision, this case is really very easy. Florida had interpreted existing law to require an individual court order for every person who wished to fix the death certificate of his or her same-sex spouse. This dubious interpretation may have been a result of state officials’ desire to prevent gay people from easily correcting their deceased spouses’ death certificates.

But whatever its merits, it must give way to Obergefell’s constitutional command. Under that decision, surviving same-sex spouses hold a Due Process and Equal Protection right to have their marriages recognized by the state. And by refusing to readily re-issue death certificates, Florida is actively violating the surviving spouses’ constitutional rights.