First it was Monroe County. Then, late last week, it was Miami-Dade County. And if the plaintiffs have their way, it'll soon be the entire state of Florida.
Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel held Friday that Florida's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional in a case that only applies to Miami-Dade County. The decision came a little more than a week after Circuit Judge Luis Garcia's similar decision in Monroe County. Both decisions are expected to be appealed, but the plaintiff-appellees in the Monroe County case are asking that the process be expedited by skipping the state appeals court and heading straight to the Florida Supreme Court.
If the motion is granted, a decision by the Florida Supreme Court would have statewide effect. If not, a parallel challenge to the state's ban in federal court could have the same effect. A decision in the federal case is expected soon.
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Pareto v. Ruvin: Miami-Dade Decision Day
On Friday, Judge Zabel struck down Florida's gay marriage ban, holding that the ban discriminates against same-sex individuals and violates their right to equal protection, reports The Associated Press.
"Preventing couples from marrying solely on the basis of their sexual orientation serves no governmental interest," she wrote. "It serves only to hurt, to discriminate, to deprive same-sex couples and their families of equal dignity, to label and treat them as second-class citizens, and to deem them unworthy of participation in one of the fundamental institutions of our society."
Just like the Monroe County decision, the ruling was put on hold pending appeal.
Huntsman v. Heavilin: Monroe County Case Seeks Fla. Supreme Court
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has filed notices of appeal in both Florida state cases, and both would ordinarily be heard by Florida's Third District Court of Appeal, based in Miami. However, the plaintiffs in Huntsman are hoping to skip the intermediate appellate court and proceed directly to the Florida Supreme Court, reports the Tampa Bay Times.
"The constitutionality of Florida's laws barring same-sex couples from marriage is an issue of great public importance that has a great effect on the proper administration of justice throughout the state," attorneys for the Huntsman plaintiffs wrote in a motion to the Third District. "There is a need to bring finality to this issue on a statewide basis so that clerks of court throughout the state have uniform guidance as to whether they must issue marriage licenses on an equal basis to otherwise qualified same-sex couples."
Brenner v. Scott: Federal Case Still Pending
Brenner v. Scott is a set of consolidated cases filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida. A decision in this matter is expected soon, and should the court rule as expected (challenges to gay marriage bans are currently undefeated nationwide), this ruling would likely have statewide effect -- though, as was the case in other states, a stay pending appeal to the Eleventh Circuit, and possibly to the U.S. Supreme Court, is likely.