In a ground breaking turn of events, on January 1, 2015, the state of Florida began recognizing marriages among all of its citizens–whether of different genders or the same gender. This major shift in attitude and law came on the heels of a Miami-Dade, Florida appellate court decision, where the Third District had decided that Florida should no longer be one of the two remaining states to prohibit same-sex couples from adopting children in the state’s care.
This seismic shift in marriage equality also has significant implications for the rights of Florida’s citizens in many other legal areas.
Before same-sex couples had the right to marry, couples in committed long-term relationships lacked many rights in personal injury cases that other married couples possess.
When a person’s spouse is injured in an accident–especially in a significant accident–Florida law allows the non-injured spouse to pursue a “consortium claim” to compensate that spouse for his or her loss of companionship, services, household contributions, and intimate relations. While not legally available before to even the most committed long-term partners, now same-sex couples who marry will also be entitled to pursue consortium claims.
Before marriage equality hit Florida, long-term committed, same-sex couples could not bring lawsuits in the event that one of the partners was killed as a result of someone else’s negligence. The Florida Wrongful Death law requires couples to be married in order for the surviving spouse to have a claim. Marriage equality in Florida will also change this inequity.
Notably, if a person in Florida dies as a result of medical malpractice–i.e., where a healthcare provider, a hospital or some medical entity commits negligence which results in a person’s death–only adults who are married (that is, if they are only survived by adult children or have no children) may have a claim for that wrongful death also.
These are just some very basic changes to Florida law that will have a direct effect on gay and lesbian couples who marry. Because the law will continue to be in flux for many years, you should always contact an attorney (anyone in our law firm is always pleased to speak with victims of negligence to answer their questions) to ascertain what rights you and/or your spouse might have.