In a 36-page ruling, Judge Sarah Zabel of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court determined the state’s ban on same-sex marriage violates the Equal Protection Clause under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
“Preventing couples from marrying solely on the basis of their sexual orientation serves no governmental interest,” Zabel writes. “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.”
Zabel invokes just about every struggle in U.S. history — from the Revolutionary War, to slavery, to the women’s rights movement — as she concludes her decision in favor of marriage equality.
“Notably absent from this protracted march towards social justice was any progress for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community until quite recently,” Zabel writes. “However, as evidenced by the avalanche of court decisions unanimously favoring marriage equality, the dam that was denying justice on this front has been broken.”
Zabel includes a stay as part of her ruling, so no same-sex marriages will take place in Florida as a result of the decision. The ruling would have been stayed automatically under state law in the likely event that Attorney General Pam Bondi appealed the decision to a higher court.
The lawsuit was filed by the National Center of Lesbian Rights on behalf of Equality Florida Institute and six same-sex couples seeking marriage rights in Florida.
Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center of Lesbian Rights, hails the decision, saying it “affirms the fundamental principles of equality and fairness and the common humanity of gay and lesbian people.”
“As the Court recognized, these families are part of Florida’s community, and equal protection requires that they be given the same legal protections and respect as other families in this state,” Minter said. “The Court’s ruling is a victory not only for the courageous couples who brought this case, but for everyone who cares about freedom and fairness.”
It’s the latest ruling against the marriage ban in Florida, which already took a blow last week when a different state judge in the Monroe County ruled the law was unconstitutional in the Florida Keys.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) spoke out against the ruling in a recent speech he gave at Catholic University defending the right of states to ban same-sex marriage.