Florida same-sex surviving spouses may be added on a death certificate without a court order
In 2015, the United States Supreme Court issued its pioneering decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, 135 S. Ct. 2584 (2015), holding state laws prohibiting or refusing to recognize same-sex marriages unconstitutional. After Obergefell, Florida started recognizing same-sex marriages and began to list a same-sex surviving spouse on the deceased spouse’s death certificate, where the marriage was lawfully entered into in another jurisdiction. However, the surviving spouse was out of luck if the marriage was entered into before Obergefell, unless the surviving spouse obtained an individual court order approving the correction.
This obtrusive situation has changed for now. In a recent order from March 23, 2017, a federal judge granted a summary judgment to a certified class, ordering that Florida must amend any death certificate without a court order when the decedent was lawfully married to a person of the same-sex at the time of the death. The same judge issued an order striking down Florida’s marriage ban in August 2014. The plaintiffs in this case were two gay surviving spouses, married before Obergefell, who filed the case not only on their behalf, but on behalf of other similarly situated persons as well. The plaintiffs sought to have their spouses’ death certificates show they had been married, but the state argued that Florida law prohibited amending the death certificates without a court order.