Phillip Morris USA Inc. & R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company v Rintoul
GLAD submitted an amicus brief along with Gelber Schachter & Greenberg, P.A., and the ACLU of Florida in support of plaintiff-appellee Bryan Rintoul in Phillip Morris USA Inc. & R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company v Rintoul in the District Court of Appeal, Fourth District of Florida. This case would determine whether Bryan will be denied access to wrongful death claims after the death of his partner of several decades and spouse since same-gender couples could marry in 2015.
For 37 years, Edward Caprio and Bryan Rintoul were a loving, committed couple. They would have married as long ago as 1986 if Florida had been willing to recognize their love and commitment for what it so clearly was. Instead, the State excluded same-sex couples from legal marriage until 2015. In this specific case, the court could determine whether Bryan (and other same-gender couples) should be denied rights and benefits tied to marriage now that Ed has passed away.
In a previous decision, Kelly v Georgia-Pacific, LLC, the court held “that a spouse who was not married to a decedent at the time of the decedent’s injury may not recover consortium damages as part of a wrongful death suit.” For the court to interpret Kelly as applying to same-gender couples who were prohibited by the state from marrying would deny an entire group of people like Bryan surviving spouse non-economic damages under the Wrongful Death Act because of those individuals’ sexual orientation and their inability to marry under Florida law prior to 2015. As our brief states, “Such an application of Kelly is not neutral—it discriminates against same-[gender] couples who would have been married earlier if they had not been prevented from doing so— and raises serious constitutional concerns. This Court should avoid those constitutional issues and refuse the invitation to apply Kelly here. The jury had ample evidence to find that Ed and Bryan would have married if marriage had been available to them.”