Marriage equality has made its way to Florida as a judge in the Florida Keys ruled that the state’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional. In a historic decision handed down Thursday, the state is on the brink of becoming the 20th state to allow same-sex marriage.
Circuit Judge Luis Garica became the latest federal judge to strike down a gay marriage ban by ruling that a provision in the Florida Constitution that prohibits same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution. The ruling, however, will only have an immediate affect for couples in Monroe County if enacted because it is the only one in which he has jurisdiction. The case he was assigned was involved two Key West men, Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones, who sued Monroe County Clerk of Courts Amy Heavilin after she denied them a marriage license.
Garcia ruled in favor of the couple and other same-sex couples in the country wishing to marry. He wrote in his decision, “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.”
In other words, it is the responsibility of the United States Constitution to “protect ALL of its citizens” from laws that threaten those rights. Garcia’s decision and statement follows a trend that is taken part in states throughout the nation. It is also the first in a string of rulings that are set to be made in the state of Florida. Similar cases have been heard in Miami-Dade County and also in Tallahassee.
Although Garcia’s ruling is just one county, it could have an impact on the rest of the state. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has announced that she will appeal Garcia’s ruling to the Third District Court of Appeal and if the ruling is upheld, it could warrant other county clerks throughout the state to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in anticipation of other rulings to follow. Bondi, who defended the ban, can also halt any marriages from taking place if she asks Garcia to issue a stay.
Huntsman and Jones were overwhelmed and joyous with the ruling. In a statement made to the Miami Herald, Jones said, ‘I can’t believe it finally happened. Love is love. It doesn’t matter if it’s a guy and woman or two women or two men. Love is love.” It is definitely the message Garcia sent to the rest of Monroe County with Thursday’s ruling.