A wedding cake is seen at a reception for same-sex couples.
Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

Marriage equality reaches (part of) Florida

Over the last year or so, there’s been no shortage of court rulings on marriage equality in about a third of the country. And during that time, each of the rulings has fallen into one of two categories: (1) a state ban on same-sex marriage has been struck down, effective immediately; or (2) a state ban on same-sex marriage has been struck down, but will remain in place pending appeal.
 
Leave it to Florida to find a way to do things a little differently. As msnbc’s Emma Margolin reports that a state judge did, in fact, rule that Florida’s law prohibiting equal marriage rights is unconstitutional – but the ruling only applies to the Florida Keys.
A Florida judge declared it unconstitutional Thursday for the Monroe County clerk to deny gay couples marriage licenses. The ruling struck down Florida’s 2008 ban on same-sex nuptials, but only in Monroe County, which covers the Florida Keys.
 
Two more rulings are expected at any moment in the Sunshine State – one that would apply only to Miami-Dade County and another that would have statewide impact from a federal judge in Tallahassee. Unlike the Monroe and Miami-Dade suits, which only name the county clerks as defendants, the federal case seeks to stop all state officials from enforcing the ban.
“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,” Monroe County Circuit Judge Luis Garcia wrote today.
 
The judge’s decision is set to take effect on Tuesday of next week.
 
The five-day delay is not related to a possible appeal, but rather, is intended to give the county clerk’s office time to prepare for the logistical and administrative change.
 
Margolin’s report added:
The case was filed on behalf of Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones, two Key West bartenders who have been together for 11 years. The couple sued Monroe County Clerk Amy Heavlin in April for denying them a marriage license.
 
Though the ruling only compels clerks in Monroe County to grant same-sex couples marriage licenses, Miami attorney Elizabeth Schwartz, who is representing plaintiffs in the Miami-Dade suit, anticipates Thursday’s decision will have broader implications.
“The state will have to recognize those marriages in Monroe County,” Schwartz told msnbc. “Other fair-minded county clerks will probably start issuing marriage licenses voluntarily, even though they aren’t bound by Judge Garcia’s decision today.”
 

Civil Rights, Florida, Gay Rights, Marriage and Marriage Equality

Marriage equality reaches (part of) Florida