MIAMI JUDGE JOINS KEYS JUDGE IN STRIKING DOWN SAME-SEX MARRIAGE BAN
If you haven’t heard by now, Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage has been struck down. On July 17, Judge Luis Garcia struck down the voter-approved amendment to Florida’s constitution. This was a big victory to Florida’s gay community, and especially to bartenders Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones, who were plaintiffs in the lawsuit which produced such a momentous decision.
According to Judge Garcia’s ruling, July 22 was supposed to be the day that gay couples could start applying for marriage licenses in Monroe County (the ruling did not extend marriage rights statewide). Within just two hours, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi appealed the ruling to the Florida Supreme Court, and obtained an automatic stay. So, wedding bells won’t be tolling for any gay couples in Florida anytime soon.
And now, we wait. The lawyers representing Huntsman and Jones tried twice to get the courts to remove the stay, but were denied both times. In the end, it will take a ruling from the state Supreme Court to get the issue settled in the Sunshine State once and for all. This will likely take a few more months, and may or may not be settled before the end of the year
Then, at the very end of last week as we were getting ready for press, there was another ruling. Judge Sarah Zabel in Miami-Dade County also found the state’s ban on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional. The news came with little fanfare: for me it was simply as a “breaking news” bulletin while I was watching the 6 o’clock news on WESH-TV NBC 2 during my recent trip to Orlando. Like the Monroe County ruling, the Miami-Dade ruling was appealed and immediately stayed.
In her ruling, Zabel said that the ban “[served] only to hurt, to discriminate, to deprive same-sex couples and their families of equal dignity, to label and treat them as second-class citizens, and to deem them unworthy of participation in one of the fundamental institutions of our society.”
Even though there two momentous court decisions have been ruled in our favor recently, we still have a couple waiting to be decided in local courts across Florida. For example, one court case in Tallahassee is still undecided, and it would answer the question of whether Florida has the right to ignore same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions.
When I attended the Equality Florida “Day of Decision” celebration in Tampa after the first court ruling, I walked outside into the courtyard at Tampa’s Unity Church, observing the organization’s Tampa Development Officer, Ed Lally, speak to a reporter for WTVT-TV FOX 13. He said, and this is an admitted paraphrase on my part, “We’ve waited all our lives for this right; we can wait a few more months.” And we will, happy to know that the end of our wait is in sight.