This afternoon, a Republican-appointed circuit court judge in the Florida Keys struck down the state's marriage discrimination amendment as unconstitutional, siding with six same-sex couples who said that the measure deprived them of their constitutional rights and effectively rendered them second-class citizens.
The Associated Press reports:
The ruling was issued Thursday by Circuit Judge Luis M. Garcia and applies only to Monroe County, which covers the Keys. The lawsuit contended that the same-sex marriage ban approved by voters in 2008 violated the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal protection under the law. The judge says licenses could be issued starting Tuesday.
Attorney General Pam Bondi and ban supporters argued that the referendum vote should be respected and that Florida has sole authority to define marriage in the state. The Florida amendment defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
Statewide LGBT group Equality Florida is holding celebratory rallies throughout the state today to applaud this historic step forward in the Sunshine State. Click here for information about an event in your area.
Freedom to Marry president Evan Wolfson applauded Judge Garcia's ruling:
"Like an unprecedented wave of state and federal courts across the country this past year, Judge Garcia did the right thing in affirming that committed same-sex couples share in the precious constitutional freedom to marry the person we love. Florida's same-sex couples and their loved ones want what all families want: joy, protections, security, and respect - just what the freedom to marry is all about. We can now add Florida's voice to the urgent need for the Supreme Court to take a freedom to marry case and bring the entire country to national resolution, ending marriage discrimination across America."
Human Rights Campaign legal director Sarah Warbelow adds: "Today's court ruling in Florida is further proof that America is ready for marriage equality nationwide. 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."
While I'm not a lawyer, a quick perusal of Florida state and county government websites seems to indicate that the state does not have a residency requirement, meaning that any same-ses couple who wished to marry on Tuesday should be able to travel to Monroe County and obtain a license. If I come across new information to the contrary, I'll update this post immediately. UPDATE: Florida law requires a three-day waiting period for Florida residents, but no waiting period is required for people who live out of state or are members of the military facing an imminent deployment.
In the meantime, congratulations to Florida on this huge step forward for equality and justice!
UPDATE: Attorney General Pam Bondi filed a notice of appeal this afternoon, which her office says "creates an automatic stay that likely puts any same-sex marriage licenses on hold well past Tuesday."
A copy of Judge Garcia's ruling is after the jump, via Equality Case Files.