The LGBT community continues to forge ahead at warp speed in our fight to legally marry our partners in the US. In just the past few weeks, judges in Oregon and Pennsylvania ruled that those states marriage bans were unconstitutional. Unlike other rulings in recent memory, there was no appeal or stay in either state so marriage has moved forward in both making them the 18th and 19th states with marriage equality.
Even lawmakers who have taken stances against marriage equality have begun to recognize the futility of the fight against equality. Last week, on a radio show, US Senator Orrin Hatch (R) of Utah, who, for the record has not changed his anti-marriage stance, said: “let’s face it: anybody who does not believe that gay marriage is going to be law of the land just hasn’t been observing what’s going on.”
Closer to home, a new lawsuit was filed in Florida. In the case of Dousset v. Florida Atlantic University, the Law offices of George Castrataro will argue that the Appellant, Gildas Dousset faces discrimination because FAU, and the state of Florida, will not recognize his legally married status and thus grant him in state tuition, like they would if he were in a traditional marriage to a woman.
Dousset, a native of France, met his future husband, Paul Rubio, in 2008, when Mr. Rubio was living in Paris for a four-month work assignment and to learn French. Rubio is a native and lifelong resident of Florida. When Mr. Rubio returned to the United States in 2009, the couple immediately made plans to stay together, and Mr. Dousset moved to Florida to be with Mr. Rubio in the summer of 2009. The couple have lived together continuously in Fort Lauderdale since that time. Because the federal government did not recognize the marriages of same-sex couples in 2009, however, Mr. Dousset would not have been recognized as Mr. Rubio’s spouse for immigration purposes even if the couple had married at that time. Mr. Dousset remained in the United States on a student visa because it was not possible for him to become a permanent resident. Just before the Windsor ruling in June of last year striking down the Defense of Marriage Act, Dousset was admitted to FAU as a communications and multimedia studies major. He was set to begin classes in the fall of 2013. Once the new marriage laws took effect, the couple decided to marry, which would now allow Dousset to remain in the country as a resident rather than on his student visa. FAU however, classified him as a non-resident despite the fact that the couple was married and Dousset was cleared for a resident visa and became a lawful resident of the US in November of 2013. Shortly thereafter in December, Dousset inquired with the university about changing his residency status for tuition purposes. Technically, he had been a resident of Florida since 2009, and was now legally married to his husband Paul. He was told by FAU that Florida doesn’t recognize same sex marriages so he would have to make his claim to residency without reference to marriage, and his claim was denied. Days later, he appealed the decision, provided all documentation proving he is a legal resident of the state of Florida as well as his marriage certificate. Sadly, he was denied again.
Fort Lauderdale based Lawyer George Castrataro who represents Dousset in the case and said “Florida’s categorical refusal to respect the marriages of same-sex couples who married in other states deprives those couples of their fundamental rights and unconstitutionally discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation and gender.” Castrataro explains that Florida’s wholesale refusal to respect the valid marriages of same-sex couples deprives those couples of due process and equal protection for the same reasons the Supreme Court concluded in Windsor that DOMA infringed those constitutional guarantees.” Castrataro’s argument is that Florida’s anti-recognition law deprives married same-sex couples of equal protection by discriminating against the class of legally married same-sex couples, not to achieve any important or even legitimate government interest, but simply to express disapproval of gay and lesbian couples and subject them to unequal treatment.
Castrataro has taken this matter on a pro bono basis as his firm has in countless other cases. The case has received national media attention and brings to light just one more aspect of discrimination that LGBT couples face when we are denied marriage equality.
For those of us who are committed to the fight for equality, it’s preposterous to think that our government, both state and federal, would continue to practice blatant discrimination. We must continue to demonstrate that we will not stand down, back down or be satisfied until we have nothing less than equality. Stay tuned for more information as this case makes it’s way through the courts.