Florida's ban on same-sex marriage was struck down in federal court Thursday as being a violation of constitutional rights, though the decision won't take effect immediately.
In his ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Robert L. Hinkle found that Florida's prohibition on same-sex nuptials infringes on the "fundamental right" to marriage under the 14th Amendment's Due Process and Equal Protection clauses.
Hinkle stayed his own ruling, pending the outcome of gay marriage decisions in several other states, including Virginia, where the U.S. Supreme Court imposed a stay on a 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision allowing gay marriage while it determines whether or not it wants to hear the case.
The victory in federal court follows four previous victories in state courts for Florida gay marriage advocates. It also marks the latest in a string of 19 federal rulings overturning state prohibitions on same sex marriage, including Virginia and Oklahoma earlier this year, and Utah in late 2013.
Throughout the ruling, Hinkle compares the current legal battles over same-sex marriage to earlier legal tussles over interracial marriage. Ultimately, says Hinkle: "The institution of marriage survived when bans on interracial marriage were struck down, and the institution will survive when bans on same-sex marriage are struck down. Liberty, tolerance, and respect are not zero-sum concepts. Those who enter opposite-sex marriages are harmed not at all when others, including these plaintiffs, are given the liberty to choose their own life partners and are shown the respect that comes with formal marriage."
-- FindLaw Blog Writer Daniel Taylor, Esq., contributed to this post.