ACLU Adds Ft. Myers Couple To Gay Marriage Lawsuit

Apr 30, 2014

Arlene Goldberg and Carol Goldwasser.
Credit Arlene Goldberg

The ACLU is asking a federal court to immediately halt Florida’s gay marriage ban on behalf of a Fort Myers woman who recently lost her wife.

Arlene Goldberg of Fort Myers recently lost her wife, Carol Goldwasser, whom she was with for 47 years.

“We actually got together when we were 20,” she said. “We were very good friends and we didn’t know what—we were feeling something and we didn’t know what it was. When we turned 20 we got together and we have been together ever since.”

Goldberg said she and Goldwasser moved from New York to Florida back in 1989 for health reasons.

In 2011, they got married in the Empire State. That’s because New York recognizes same-sex marriages while Florida doesn’t.

This distinction is now more important than ever, because Goldberg’s partner of half a century died a couple weeks ago.

And even though Goldwasser is gone, Goldberg is still taking care of her late wife’s elderly parents. But, because Florida doesn’t recognize their marriage, Goldberg can’t collect Goldwasser’s considerably higher social security check. Goldberg said this is more than just a financial burden.

“It’s hurtful and I resent that because we lived a life as if we were married—no different than any other couple,” Goldberg said.

That’s why she’s now seeking legal action.  The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida announced recently it amended a previous lawsuit to include Goldberg as a plaintiff.

The ACLU is asking a federal court to strike down a Florida law that bans gay marriages in the state and bans the state from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states.

Baylor Johnson, a spokesman with the ACLU of Florida, said even though social security is a federal program, the agency refers to marriage statuses in a person’s state of residence, which is hurting a lot of people in the Sunshine State.

Johnson said Goldberg’s story is a good example of that.

“I think that Arlene’s story certainly adds another dimension and gives another example to the court of the way in which Florida’s refusal to recognize same sex marriages hurts real families—hurts real Floridians,” he said.

The ACLU of Florida’s lawsuit names state officials including Gov. Rick Scott, state Attorney General Pam Bondi, and others as the defendants.