Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi (R) filed a petition on Friday seeking to block a lesbian woman from getting a divorce from her estranged ex-partner, Broward/Palm Beach New Times reported on Thursday.
Bondi’s petition to Broward County Circuit Court Judge Dale Cohen argued that 41-year-old Heather Brassner should not receive a divorce in absentia from Megan Lade because they entered a civil union in Vermont in 2002.
Because Brassner and Lade’s union was not recognized as a marriage in Florida, Bondi said, Cohen was incorrect when he declared the state’s ban on marriage equality unconstitutional in a separate ruling this past August.
“If this Court reaches the constitutional issues, it should uphold the challenged laws because Florida’s marriage laws do not violate the United States Constitution,” Bondi wrote.
Brassner has been seeking the divorce since Lade “disappeared” following their falling out. Brassner argued in her petition that she was afraid that Lade would use her name to undermine her financially. The Miami Herald reported that officials in Vermont cannot dissolve their union without a signature from Lade, who has not resurfaced.
Bondi argued that Cohen cannot grant Brassner’s petition because she cannot show “a bona fide, actual, present practical need” for the state’s same-sex marriage ban to be struck down. The attorney general filed her petition two days before a court-imposed deadline.
The LGBT advocacy group Equality Florida criticized Bondi’s move in a statement.
“Attorney General Bondi should not hold our state and our families hostage by calling for the stay to remain in place,” the group’s CEO, Nadine Smith, said in a statement. “Let her follow the lead of the 9th Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court and allow marriages to commence. Every day that Floridians are denied access to the protections only marriage can provide, our families suffer.”
Cohen was one of five judges, including a federal judge, to recently rule against the same-sex marriage ban. Bondi has appealed the rulings, saying lifting the ban “would impose significant public harm.”