A state trial court in Miami struck down Florida's ban on same-sex marriages and ordered the county of Miami-Dade to extend the right to all couples today. According to the National Council of Lesbian Rights, the court stayed the order pending appeal, so couples will not be able to wed right away.
This comes after Judge Luis Garcia of the Monroe County Circuit in Florida ruled earlier this month in favor of Key West couple Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones, who sued county clerk Amy Heavilin in April after they were refused a marriage license. The cases are just a few of the more than 70 similar suits taking place across the country where marriage bans still exist.
Attorneys for the six Miami-Dade couples suing the state argued July 1 to Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court Judge Sarah Zabel that Florida's ban on same-sex marriages cannot stand because the federal Defense of Marriage Act was struck down in 2013 for violating the Constitution.
"Preventing couples from marrying solely on the basis of their sexual orientation serves no governmental interest," Zabel wrote according to the Associated Press. "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."
The case was brought by Equality Florida and six couples: Catherina Pareto and Karla Arguello, Dr. Juan Carlos Rodriguez and David Price, Vanessa and Melanie Alenier, Todd and Jeff Delmay, Summer Greene and Pamela Faerber, and Don Price Johnston and Jorge Isaias Diaz. They were represented by the law firm Carlton Fields Jorden Burt, Elizabeth F. Schwartz, Mary B. Meeks, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.
"It means so much for a court to recognize our family and say that we must be treated equally," said Pareto, who has been in a relationship with her partner Aruello for 14 years. Together, they're raising a 1-year-old son. "We love this state and want nothing more than to be treated as equal citizens who contribute to the community and help make Florida an even better place for everyone who lives here."