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Following the federal court decision in California, could same sex marriage rights extend to Florida?

1:05 AM, Feb 8, 2012   |    comments
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TAMPA, Fla. -- Celebrations covered streets across California as a federal court ruled marriage is a right for everyone. The decision from the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Proposition 8, which banned same sex marriage in the Golden State.

"How we are born and who we chose to love should not be a basis for discrimination in this country," announced Chad Griffin with the American Foundation for Equal Rights.

Six states and Washington, DC already allow same sex marriage. Twelve more states permit civil unions for same sex couples, but all 50 states could be involved if the nation's high court takes up the issue.

"If the Supreme Court says that you cannot have a popular vote to take away people's rights -- that's a game-changer everywhere, including here [in Florida]," says Equality Florida board member Jim Harper.

Equality Florida is one of the many groups across the Sunshine State working for marriage rights for same sex couples. Realizing that could still be years away, the group is pushing two bills through Tallahassee to extend more protections for same sex couples. One bill would prevent workplace discrimination based on sexual identity. The second bill would create a statewide domestic partner registry.

"It's not marriage," says Harper, "but it would at least allow people to register their relationships, so that at important times in their life, like a hospital emergency or end of life planning, that people who may have been together decades would have the legal standing to act as a couple...a loving couple...which is what they are."

Nationally, what happens next is still unclear. CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin says, "I think the way they decided this case makes a trip to the United States Supreme Court less likely. The two judges in the minority very much limited their ruling to the peculiar circumstances of California."

A nationwide Gallup poll from 2011 showed a majority of Americans support same sex marriage.

The state of Washington is expected to approve same sex marriage later this week, and legislatures in Maryland and New Jersey could soon approve the rights as well.

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