A Florida judge ruled Thursday that the state's ban on marriage for same-sex couples is unconstitutional — issuing an order that applies only to Monroe County, which covers the Keys.
Circuit Judge Luis M. Garcia said the state's 2008 voter-approved constitutional ban on marriage for same-sex couples violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
"This court is aware that the majority of voters oppose same-sex marriage, but it is our country's proud history to protect the rights of the individual, the rights of the unpopular and the rights of the powerless, even at the cost of offending the majority," Garcia wrote in his ruling. "... All laws passed whether by the legislature or by popular support must pass the scrutiny of the United States Constitution, to do otherwise diminishes the Constitution to just a historical piece of paper."
Garcia has ordered Monroe County Clerk Amy Heavilin to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples no sooner than July 22.
LGBT advocates and community members plan to celebrate the ruling in 14 cities across the state Thursday night.
Judge Garcia's order:
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who has defended the state's ban on marriages for same-sex couples in court, announced that her office has filed a notice of appeal in the case. The U.S. Supreme Court should have the final say on the matter, according to Bondi.
"The Office of the Attorney General today filed a notice of appeal in one challenge to the voter-approved constitutional amendment defining marriage, Huntsman v. Heavilin, Case No. 2014-CA-0305-K (16th Judicial Circuit, Monroe County)," said Jenn Meale, a spokeswoman, in a statement. "With many similar cases pending throughout the entire country, finality on this constitutional issue must come from the U.S. Supreme Court."