Federal Judge Rules Florida Ban On Same-Sex Marriage Unconstitutional
"The Florida provisions that prohibit the recognition of same-sex marriages lawfully entered elsewhere, like the federal provision, are unconstitutional. So is the Florida ban on entering same-sex marriages."
Another judge ruled Thursday that Florida's ban on marriage for same-sex couples is unconstitutional — this time in federal court.
U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle in Tallahassee joins judges in four counties in the state to rule against the 2008 voter-approved ban prohibiting marriage for same-sex couples in recent weeks.
"Just last year the [U.S. Supreme Court] struck down a federal statute that prohibited federal recognition of same-sex marriages lawfully entered in other jurisdictions," Hinkle wrote in his ruling. "The Florida provisions that prohibit the recognition of same-sex marriages lawfully entered elsewhere, like the federal provision, are unconstitutional. So is the Florida ban on entering same-sex marriages."
Hinkle stayed his ruling until there are decisions in marriage equality cases from Virginia, Utah, and Oklahoma that have been requested to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, meaning same-sex couples cannot immediately marry.
However, the judge ordered the state's Surgeon General to issue a corrected death certificate listing a plaintiff in the case, Arlene Goldberg, as as legally married to Carol Goldwasser, who died earlier this year. The couple had been together for 47 years and were married in New York in 2011.
The ruling comes in the case of Brenner v. Scott, consolidated legal challenges that includes 22 plaintiffs, such as Goldberg, same-sex couples that were legally married in other states, and same-sex couples who want to marry in Florida.
In his ruling, Hinkle said the ban violates the equal protection and due process protections guaranteed by the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and compared laws prohibiting marriage for same-sex couples to laws that banned marriage for interracial couples, which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled as unconstitutional.
"Now, nearly 50 years later, the arguments supporting the ban on interracial marriage seem an obvious pretext for racism; it must be hard for those who were not then of age to understand just how sincerely those views were held," he said. "When observers look back 50 years from now, the arguments supporting Florida's ban on same-sex marriage, though just as sincerely held, will again seem an obvious pretext for discrimination. Observers who are not now of age will wonder just how those views could have been held."
Previously, judges in four Florida counties — Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach — have issued rulings against the state's marriage ban. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who has defended the ban in court, asked a state appeals court earlier this month to put two of those cases on hold until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the issue.