Florida issues first death certificate recognizing a same-sex couple

Arlene Goldberg and Carol Goldwasser

Arlene Goldberg and Carol Goldwasser Facebook

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The state of Florida on Wednesday issued its first death certificate recognizing a same-sex couple.

Arlene Goldberg and Carol GoldwasserFacebook

Arlene Goldberg and Carol Goldwasser

The Florida Department of Health issued an updated death certificate that listed Fort Myers resident Arlene Goldberg as the surviving spouse of Carol Goldwasser. With the death certificate, the couple became the first same-sex couple whose marriage is recognized by a state agency.

Goldberg and Goldwasser married in New York in 2011.

After being together for 47 years, Goldwasser died last March. Because Florida didn’t recognize the marriage, Goldberg was unable to get Goldwasser’s Social Security survivor’s benefits.

Goldberg joined a lawsuit challenging Florida’s ban on same-sex marriages, and a federal judge in Tallahassee ruled in August that the ban was unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle issued a stay, delaying the effect of the order, until other cases around the country were resolved before the U.S. Supreme Court. He said at the time he would not allow any change until 90 days after the resolution of other cases that were pending with the Supreme Court.

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But he ordered Florida to issue a revised death certificate for Goldwasser.

“This is a bittersweet moment for me,” Goldberg said. “While I’m pleased that the state is finally recognizing that Carol and I shared a life together, it’s sad that she didn’t get to see it happen.”

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court turned away appeals from five states seeking to prohibit gay and lesbian unions. After the high court’s decision, the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida as well as lawyers representing same-sex couples asked Hinkle to lift the stay.

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