Florida Judge Rules Marriage Ban Unconstitutional

A county judge in Florida has ruled that the state's ban on same-sex marriage is in violation of the constitution.

BY Michelle Garcia

July 17 2014 1:12 PM ET

Jose Machado (left) holds a rainbow flag near opponents of same-sex marriage as demonstrators rallied outside the Miami-Dade Courthouse July 2, when LGBT couples asked the court to strike down the state's ban on marriage equality.

A county circuit judge in Florida ruled against the state constitution's ban on same-sex marriage Thursday.

“This court concludes that a citizen’s right to marry is a fundamental right that belongs to the individual,” wrote Judge Luis Garcia of the Monroe County Circuit.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, the decision was stayed until Tuesday, at which point same-sex couples in Monroe County can begin to obtain marriage licenses, unless a stay is requested by the state attorney general and granted by the state court of appeals or Florida Supreme Court. At this point, it is not clear whether the state will appeal the ruling, the Miami Herald reports.

Key West couple Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones brought the suit challenging Florida's ban, approved by voters in 2008. The couple sued Monroe County Clerk Amy Heavilin in April after they were refused a marriage license.

This case is one of more than 70 similar suits taking place across the country where marriage bans still exist. Another suit in Florida stems from Miami-Dade County, where six same-sex couples and Equality Florida are suing County Clerk Harvey Ruvin for the right to marry. 

“Today’s court ruling in Florida is further proof that America is ready for marriage equality nationwide,” HRC legal director Sarah Warbelow said in a statement shortly after the ruling. “Unfortunately, same-sex couples in a majority of states still don’t have the right to marry, creating a confusing patchwork of marriage laws across the country. This is not only unsustainable, but it’s also unconstitutional.”

Today's ruling marks the 25th consecutive pro-equality decision delivered from a state or federal judge since last summer's landmark Supreme Court ruling in U.S. v. Windsor, which struck down a key segment of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. At present, same-sex couples can marry in 19 states and the District of Columbia. 

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