Two Florida Judges Rule State’s Same-Sex Marriage Ban Unconstitutional
Brandon, FL (Law Firm Newswire) August 6, 2014 – Florida’s same-sex marriage ban suffered two legal defeats in July, and a ruling on a third case is still pending.
On July 17, 2014, a circuit judge in Monroe County said the law violates the U.S. Constitution. Just over a week later on July 25, a Miami-Dade judge followed suit in a separate case. Each of those rulings, which would have permitted marriages to proceed in their respective counties, was stayed pending appeal by the state. A still-pending ruling on a federal case in Tallahassee would apply statewide.
Attorney O. Reginald Osenton says it is likely the marriage ban will be defeated.
“Momentum is clearly on the side of marriage equality advocates,” Osenton said. “The state has offered up a wide range of arguments in support of the bans, and those arguments have not held up in court.”
Judge Luis Garcia in Monroe County and Judge Sarah Zabel in Miami-Dade County both ruled that the state law violates the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment, which guarantees due process and equal protection under the law. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi promptly filed a notice of appeal in each case, triggering an automatic stay preventing any same-sex marriage licenses from being issued.
Advocates are hoping for a similar ruling from Judge Robert Hinkle, who is overseeing the federal case at the U.S. District Court in Tallahassee. That case is a consolidation of lawsuits filed by 10 same-sex couples and a widow who married under the laws of other states or in Canada and seek to force Florida to recognize their marriages.
“It’s likely the law will have to be decided by the Florida Supreme Court,” Osenton said. “It could go either way, but if the state’s lack of success so far is any indication, the ban is likely to fall.”