Judge Rules Florida Same Sex Marriage Ban Unconstitutional

The Right to Marry is a Fundamental Right

In Florida same sex marriage equality made major headway within the legal system. Judge Luis Garcia ruled yesterday that Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage violates the United States Constitution. In his ruling on Huntsman v. Heavilin, the Monroe county Sixteenth Circuit judge said,

This court concludes that a citizen’s right to marry is a fundamental right that belongs to the individual.

This case came before the court in an action brought by Aaron Huntsman and his partner William Lee Jones. The couple had applied for a marriage license at the Clerk of Courts office, and in accordance with Florida Statutes, the couple was denied a marriage license by Amy Heavlin, Clerk of Courts for Monroe county. The Plaintiffs in the case, Huntsman and Jones alleged in their complaint filed in the circuit court, that “Florida’s categorical exclusion of all same-sex couples from marriage deny same-sex couples, including Plaintiffs and their families, the fundamental rights, dignities and equalities guaranteed to all persons by the United States Constitution.” The Honorable Judge Garcia agreed with the Plaintiffs, and went on to add,

The right these plaintiffs seek is not a new right, but is a right that these individuals have always been guaranteed by the United States Constitution. Societal norms and traditions have kept same-sex couples from marrying, like it kept women from voting until 1920 and forbid interracial marriage until 1967.

Implications of the Florida Keys Decision

Judge Garcia, in his ruling, ordered that the Clerk of Court for Monroe County “shall issue a marriage license to the plaintiffs and similarly situated same-sex couples, subject to the same restrictions and limitations applicable to opposite sex-couples [sic] under Florida law.” In anticipation of the rise in activity at the Clerk’s office, Judge Garcia stayed the decision until Tuesday, July 22, 2014 – as a practical matter, in order to allow the Clerk’s office to prepare for the anticipated increase in persons coming to the office to obtain a marriage license.

 

This court decision specifically held Florida Statute 741.04(1) and Article I, Section 27 of the Florida Constitution to be unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Article I, Section 27 [click here to read the Constitution] of the Florida Constitution defines marriage as the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife. Florida Statute 741.04(1)[url href=”http://www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=&URL=0700-0799/0741/Sections/0741.04.html” title=”Florida Statute 741.04(1)” ][ click here to read the statute ] [/url] prohibits the issuance of a marriage license to same-sex couples. Those two laws, together, prohibit same-sex couples from being legally married within the state of Florida. Judge Garcia’s ruling that these two particular laws are in direct conflict with the United States Constitution essentially trumps those laws, as any state law which does not conform to or is in direct conflict with the U.S. Constitution is trumped by the U.S. Constitution. 

 

Pack your beach bag. But don’t book your flight … yet. 

Shortly after the circuit court’s ruling was entered, Pam Bondi, Florida Attorney General, filed the State of Florida’s Appeal of the deicision to the District Court of Appeal for the Third Circuit – as an Intervenor-Defendant in the case. That filing with the appellate court grants Ms. Bondi a stay in the matter. Therefore, July 22, 2014 will likely not mark issuance of the first same-sex marriage certificate in the state, nor the first legal same-sex marriage in the state of Florida. The Attorney General’s Appeal can be found here: [url href=”http://myfloridalegal.com/webfiles.nsf/WF/JMEE-9M4Q8G/$file/JulyAppeal.pdf” title=”Florida Attorney General’s Appeal in Huntsman v. Heavilin” ]Attorney General’s Appeal[/url]

By Misty Priest

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