A federal judge on Thursday ruled Florida's gay-marriage ban unconstitutional and ordered the state to recognize marriages legally performed elsewhere. U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle, however, immediately stayed his order until after the appeals process is completed. "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," Hinkle wrote. "Observers who are not now of age will wonder just how those views could have been held."
For proponents of civil rights and marriage equality, the last year has been remarkably successful, though there have been some recent bumps in the road. A state court in Tennessee, for example, interrupted the winning streak last week, while the U.S. Supreme Court halted Virginia marriages that had been set to begin today.
But as we were reminded in the Sunshine State this afternoon, the larger trajectory of this fight clearly favors supporters of equal rights.
It was just six years ago that voters in Florida, with relative ease, approved a state constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex couples from getting married. Amendment 2, as it was called, passed statewide, 62% to 38%.
But now, thanks to Hinkle, a Clinton appointee to the federal bench, the measure is unconstitutional. With the district court judge, however, agreeing to a stay, those hoping to take advantage of marriage equality in Florida will have to wait a little longer.
As for the larger context, let's return to looking at the scope of recent court rulings, because it really is extraordinary.
It was just last month when Colorado joined the marriage-equality club, which came just a week after a federal court victory over a gay-marriage ban in Kentucky. That ruling followed two wins the week prior in Utah and Indiana. Those rulings came two weeks after a big win in Wisconsin, which came two weeks after a separate federal court struck down Pennsylvania’s ban on marriage equality -- a court ruling that will not be appealed.
The ruling in the Keystone State came just one day after a similar ruling in Oregon.
Which came just a week after a federal court struck down Idaho’s ban on same-sex marriage.
Which came just a week after a court ruled against Arkansas’ anti-gay constitutional amendment.
This came a month after a federal judge ordered Ohio to recognize same-sex marriages from other states. The month before that, a federal judge struck down Michigan’s ban on marriage equality.
Civil-rights proponents have scored related victories in Virginia, Oklahoma, and Texas, just over the last half-year or so.
Florida is now on track to be the first state in the Southeast to allow same-sex marriages.