A same-sex marriage ban still exists in Florida. This trailblazing lesbian is determined to change that

Michele Rayner

Florida state representative Michele Rayner is fighting to repeal a ban on same-sex marriage in her state, which still stands despite marriage equality becoming law nationwide.

Rayner is the only lesbian member of the Florida legislature, and the first-ever Black queer woman to have a seat, and she married her wife Bianca Goolsby in 2017, two years after marriage equality was legalised across the US. 

But in Florida, a defunct ban on same-sex marriage still exists in law.

Florida statute 741.212 reads: “Marriages between persons of the same sex entered into in any jurisdiction, whether within or outside the state of Florida, the United States, or any other jurisdiction, either domestic or foreign, or any other place or location, or relationships between persons of the same sex which are treated as marriages… are not recognised for any purpose in this state.”

“For purposes of interpreting any state statute or rule, the term ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife,” it adds.

On Monday (4 January) Rayner filed a bill to change this, and said it’s important as the LGBT+ community has no idea what could happen in the future.

“We need to make allowances for folks to marry who they love, regardless of what that love looks like,” she told Advocate.

“I would argue it’s settled law. But there is always a possibility things could happen.”

Despite Republicans holding a supermajority in both Florida chambers, Rayner feels that appealing to people on a personal level is helping her case. Since her election in November, her wife has met many members of Florida’s House.

She said: “Of course they all love her. When you make it personal for people, that’s when they change their minds.”

Michele Rayner is supported by Florida’s first LGBT+ state senator Shevrin Jones.

In 2020, Shevrin Jones became Florida’s first out LGBT+ state senator and he wholeheartedly supports Michele Rayner’s bill to repeal the state ban on same-sex marriage.

He said: “This is not only important to LGBTQ Floridians, but this is important to Florida’s families.

“It doesn’t matter how your family looks, and it’s not the state’s job to play referee of what it believes a family should look like.

“Last year across the country we saw a wave of LGBTQ candidates who won elections, which is a sign that the people are growing, and I think they desire to stand on the right side of history. Florida should follow suit.

“This ban in Florida is outdated, hateful, and quite honestly, hurtful to families.”