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    Florida Grants Insurance Benefits to Same-Sex Spouses Of State Workers

    In a move sure to give Pam Bondi indigestion, the Florida Department of Management Services has announced same-sex spouses of state employees are now eligible for health insurance and retirement benefits.

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    Florida's crusading attorney general Pam Bondi is reported to be lying low since the same-sex marriages began in Florida. She even skipped a prayer breakfast arranged by one of the architects of Florida's 2008 same-sex marriage ban. Her office claims she had a sick family member, but Attorney General Bondi had no problem appearing for her inauguration celebration later in the day, which, by the way, was held across the street from the Leon County Courthouse, where just three hours earlier same-sex couples began applying for marriage licenses. 

    “Loving couples getting married across Florida overshadowed the inauguration,” mused Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida. “It was poetry.”

    Florida Governor Rick Scott has washed his hands of the marriage issue, delegating the authority to decide how to proceed to Attorney General Bondi. But ever since the stay was lifted and the weddings began, Bondi has been avoiding reporters. The one time she was cornered, on a walk from her swearing-in back to her office, she said only:

    “My solicitor general is looking at it, and we’re still hopeful that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the case.”

    While the upper echelons of the state appearing rudderless, those charged with the everyday exercise of the state government have chosen to embrace the decision of the court. Suzetta Furlong, operations chief of the Florida Department of Management Services, has determined her department will not only extend insurance and retirement benefits to the spouses and children of legally married gay and lesbian state employees, it would affirmatively encourage enrollment. 
    Ms. Furlong issued a memo to state agencies, university human resource officers, and insurance benefit coordinators, saying: 
    “Employees whose marriages will be legally recognized in Florida as of Jan. 6, 2015, have a qualifying status change event window between Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015, through Friday, March 6, 2015, to enroll in a family plan.” 
    On the same day that Ms. Furlong issued her memo, the state retirement director, Dan Drake, notified Florida Retirement System members that they could now include their legal same-sex spouse as a beneficiary for their retirement.
    Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, which represented eight of the same-sex couples who sued Florida to recognize their out-of-state marriages, savored the victory:

    “This is what our case was all about, affecting the lives of real families and real people in Florida,” crowed Simon. “It was always all about protecting and strengthening families. Health insurance, pensions, all the things for which opposite-sex couples get married to and enjoy. They are implementing what they've been ordered to do.”

    It looks like everyone is on board.... except Attorney General Bondi, of course. She is still in hiding.
    Photo via Equality Florida 
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