LGBT

Third Judge In Florida Rules State’s Ban On Same-Sex Marriage Unconstitutional

“Every win in court brings us closer than we’ve ever been to the freedom to marry in Florida,” said Nadine Smith of Equality Florida in a statement after the ruling, which applies to the state’s Broward County.

Michael Laughlin / Reuters

A Florida circuit court judge ruled Monday the state’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples is unconstitutional — the third judge in the state to do so in recent weeks, according to the Miami Herald and Orlando Sentinel.

Broward County Circuit Judge Dale Cohen ruled that the state’s prohibition of marriage for same-sex couples and its refusal to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples that were performed out of state violate the equal protection and due process clauses of the 14th Amendment to U.S. Constitution, Nancy Brodzki, legal counsel to the plaintiff in the case, told BuzzFeed.

Heather Brassner, who had entered into a civil union in Vermont in 2002, filed the suit to divorce in Florida. With that, the judge said he would first need to address the state’s constitutional ban on marriage for same-sex couples, which voters approved in 2008, according to Brodzki.

Cohen issued an immediate stay on his ruling, meaning same-sex couples cannot yet marry there, according to the paper. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is expected to appeal, as she has with the rulings in the two prior marriage equality cases. Jenn Meale, a spokeswoman for Bondi, told BuzzFeed the AG’s office will review the Broward ruling.

“Every win in court brings us closer than we’ve ever been to the freedom to marry in Florida,” said Nadine Smith, CEO of Equality Florida, in a statement. “We look forward to the day when all loving, committed couples and their families enjoy the same protections, opportunities and responsibilities of marriage under the law. Every passing day inflicts real hardships on families who are denied the legal protection and dignity that marriage equality provides.”

Previously, state circuit court judges in Florida’s Miami-Dade and Monroe counties have ruled the state’s ban is unconstitutional.

update

The Miami Herald published a copy of Cohen’s ruling. In it, Cohen explains why Florida cannot allow opposite-sex couples to marry, while not affording the same right to same-sex couples, saying legal precedents make clear that the state cannot “impose inequality under the Constitution.”

“Our country has evolved each generation, and the generation before is often
baffled at the changes,” Cohen wrote. “Setting aside personal biases, feelings, beliefs and anxieties, and embracing change is often difficult but essential to ensuring that all people are treated fairly under our Constitution. Our country has always strived to recognize the rights of all people. Equatity is the cornerstone of our nation. In pursuit of that ideal comes the often-uncomfortable feeling of change. We have learned that over time change becomes
apart of what this great nation is all about.”

Additionally, Cohen states in the opinion that, “The tides are turning on the issue of same-sex marriage throughout this country” and, “Marriage is a well-recognized fundamental right, all people should be entitled to enjoy its benefits.”

Read the full ruling via the Miami Herald.

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