State judge strikes down Florida's gay marriage ban, stays ruling

Fri Jul 25, 2014 10:06pm EDT
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By Zachary Fagenson

MIAMI (Reuters) - A state judge struck down Florida's gay marriage ban on Friday in the latest in a string of legal gay-rights victories that have nonetheless been put on hold for resolution by higher courts.

Circuit Court Judge Sarah Zabel in Miami-Dade County said Florida's ban violated the constitutional rights to due process and equal protection, as well as offended "basic human decency." Florida's attorney general quickly appealed the ruling.

But Zabel said the slew of recent verdicts showed it is "increasingly obvious" it is not permissible to deny couples the right to marry solely on the basis of their sexual orientation, and that doing so served no governmental purpose.

"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," she wrote.

Since the Supreme Court ordered the federal government last year to extend benefits to legally married gay couples, every federal and state court that has taken up the issue of same-sex marriage – about 20 courts - has ruled against state bans.

Most of these rulings are on hold.

Don Price Johnston, a 44-year-old plaintiff in the Miami lawsuit, said he was thrilled with the ruling and that he did not mind that it had been stayed for now.

"It's not like we're going to lose. We just have to wait," he said. "I have been waiting for more than 25 years for this right. A few more months won't kill me."   Continued...

Patrick Gibbons (L) and Aaron Vargas of Oakland Park participate in the Decision Day Celebration Rally at the Pride Center, in Wilton Manors, Florida, July 17, 2014.  REUTERS/Michael Laughlin/South Florida Sun-Sentinel