July 17, 2014 | by Chris Johnson
Judge rules for marriage equality in Florida Keys

gavel, gay news, Washington Blade, justice

A state court has struck down Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage in Monroe County (Photo by Bigstock).

A state judge in Florida issued a ruling Thursday enjoining state officials from enforcing the state’s same-sex marriage ban in the Florida Keys, but gay couples apparently won’t be able to wed anytime soon there because a notice of appeal was filed.

In the latest of an unbroken string of victories in support of marriage equality, Monroe County Circuit Judge Luis Garcia issues summary judgment in favor same-sex couples in his jurisdiction challenging Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage.

“This 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 the rights of the powerless, even at the cost of offending the majority,” Garcia writes.

Citing other unpopular courts decisions, such as ones allowing gun-ownership in Chicago or Nazi supremacists to march in Jewish neighborhoods, Garcia says the U.S. Constitution “guarantees and protects ALL of its citizens from government interference with those rights.”

“All laws passed whether by the legislature or by popular support must pass the scrutiny of the United States Constitution, to do otherwise diminishes the Constitution to just a historical piece of paper,” writes Garcia, an appointee of former Gov. Jeb Bush.

Unlike other court decisions on marriage that have applied throughout a particular state, Garcia’s ruling appears limited to Monroe County, where the couples filed suit against the state’s marriage ban.

However, Garcia enjoins the Monroe County clerk in the Florida Keys from enforcing the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, saying the clerk must begin giving marriage licenses to gay couples no later than Tuesday. But Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has already filed a notice of appeal.

The action from Bondi has made it so same-sex couples will not be able to obtain marriage licenses beginning at that time, according to Monroe County.

Rob Saunders, general counsel for Monroe County, told the Washington Blade that because Bondi filed a notice of appeal saying she intends to take up the matter with the 3rd District Court of Appeals, an automatic stay has been placed on Garcia’s decision. That means no same-sex weddings are expected on Tuesday as instructed by the ruling.

The lawsuit, known as Huntsman v. Heavilin, was filed by the law offices of Restivo, Reilly & Vigil-Fariñas LLC on behalf of a same-sex couple living in Key West, Fla., who applied and were denied a marriage license by the Monroe County Clerk on April 1.

It’s different from the litigation filed in Miami-Dade County by same-sex couples in which a judge heard oral arguments last week. A decision in that case is expected in the coming days.

Florida has a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage known as Amendment 2, which was passed in 2008 by state voters by 62 percent.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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