We've seen court after court after court, including a federal circuit court of appeal, rule in favor of gay marriage. But courts in the Eleventh Circuit have been conspicuously silent on the issue -- until now.
This afternoon, Monroe County Circuit Judge Luis Garica overturned Florida's 2008 constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. It's a narrow victory for gay rights proponents in Florida -- it only applies to Monroe County (the Florida Keys) -- but with four cases in the state racing towards decisions, it's a good sign of things to come, and yet another entry in a long winning streak for gay marriage nationwide.
Here are a few takeaways from the decision:
- Delayed, Not Stayed: While the court's decision won't take effect immediately, it wasn't stayed pending appeal (as the majority of courts have done). Instead, Judge Garcia ordered the Monroe County Clerk's Office to start issuing licenses as of Tuesday, "in consideration ... of anticipated rise in activity," reports the Miami Herald.
- Appeal Coming (Of Course): Attorney General Pamela Bondi, on behalf of the State of Florida, has already filed a Notice of Appeal. If we were betting types, we'd guess that the appeals court will issue a stay sooner rather than later.
- Bondi Criticized: Conservative activists, who seek to uphold the ban, have argued that Bondi's office hasn't done enough to defend the gay marriage ban. Mat Staver, the founder of Liberty Counsel, was allowed to argue as a friend of the court in today's case. In a press release, he stated that Bondi's office "is giving only window dressing to the Florida Marriage Amendment," and that "If [she] does not want to present a vigorous defense, she owes it to the voters of Florida to step down and allow someone else to represent the interests of the State." He took issue with her office's short 14-page brief, filed a week before the court date, and with her assignment of the case to a staff attorney.
- More Cases Coming: The Herald notes that a case in Miami Dade County, on behalf of six couples, is awaiting a decision, which should be released any day. According to Freedom to Marry, this was one of five cases -- four state and one (consolidated) federal -- challenging Florida's ban.
- This Quote: "The 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 rights of the powerless, even at the cost of offending the majority."
Equality Florida has "Decision Day" Celebrations lined up across the state. A list of locations and a signup sheet is available on their website.
- Huntsman v. Heavilin (Monroe County Circuit Court)
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