Marriage Ruling Spurs Change in Car, Boat Title Paperwork

Posted at 5:04 PM, Sep 23, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-23 13:08:15-04

TALLAHASSEE, FL (The News Service of Florida) - The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles is the latest state agency preparing to update paperwork to reflect continuing ripple effects from the legalization of same-sex marriage.

The agency on Tuesday will go to Gov. Rick Scott and the state Cabinet with a proposed rule change related to transfers of titles on cars and boats --- with a revision replacing a reference to "husband and wife."

The department intends to change a single check-off box on title-transfer forms. The change involves where people can declare why they shouldn't be subject to sales and use taxes when transferring the ownership of motor vehicles, mobile homes or vessels.

The phrase "a married couple" is to replace "husband and wife."

Other reasons people can seek to transfer vehicles without incurring sales taxes are: inheritance, gift, divorce decree, an even trade or trade down, or some other reason that requires a written explanation.

Jennifer Langston, with the agency's Cabinet and legislative affairs office, said the title-transfer form is the only change for which she knows the agency needs approval.

"Policies and procedures have been changed, but this is one of the forms that we use every day for business," Langston said after a meeting of Cabinet aides Wednesday.

Florida began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in January after a federal judge ruled that the state's ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court followed in June with a ruling that same-sex couples across the country have a fundamental right to marry.

The landmark legal decisions have rippled through government agencies.

The title paperwork proposal, for example, comes after county clerks across Florida started to receive new, gender-neutral marriage licenses last week from the Florida Department of Health's Bureau of Vital Statistics.

The updated certificates, which the clerks will start issuing Oct. 1, have two spaces for "spouse" rather than bride and groom.

Leon County Clerk of the Courts Bob Inzer said with gay marriage now legal, it was simply time for the change.

"The forms really haven't changed, except for a couple of words here and there," Inzer said. "Other than that, the forms are identically the same as they were before. Again it was just to accommodate, if you will, the change in the law."

A similar change will also be made to official divorce forms.

Also, state Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee, filed a measure (HB 4019) on Tuesday that would change parts of state law dealing with marriage licenses. The bill, which is filed for the 2016 legislative session, would eliminate one part of law that in the past required a marriage license to only be issued if "one party is a male and the other party is a female."

The bill also would repeal a legal definition of marriage that has been used in interpreting state laws and rules. That definition says marriage "means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the term 'spouse' applies only to a member of such a union."