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Key West couple’s challenge to Fla. same-sex marriage ban goes to court

Monday, July 7, 2014
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Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones

KEY WEST, Fla. — A same-sex couple from Key West, Fla., are in court Monday for a hearing on their challenge to Florida’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

Aaron Huntsman, 43, and William Lee Jones, 42, filed suit in April in Monroe County after being refused a marriage license. The couple, bartenders at 801 Bourbon Bar in Key West, wanted to marry in June on the 10th anniversary of their commitment ceremony.

The suit is one of four challenges to Florida’s Amendment 2, a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions, approved by voters in 2008.

Judge Luis Garcia is hearing their case in Plantation Key, Fla., and although a ruling is not expected Monday, the couple says they are prepared to marry immediately if the judge strikes down the ban.

“That’s all it takes is a walk across the hall. It’s just about 10 feet from the door of the court to the door of the clerk’s office,” said Bernadette Restivo, an attorney for the couple.

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Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, whose office intervened in the case just two weeks ago, takes the position that U.S. Supreme Court rulings – including the one last year that struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act – give states sole power to define marriage.

Last week, attorneys for six same-sex couples, the state of Florida and opponents of marriage equality squared off in a Miami-Dade courtroom in another lawsuit seeking to overturn Florida’s same-sex marriage ban.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel did not immediately rule and gave no indication when she would. She took notice, however, of the numerous state and federal rulings striking down gay marriage bans in other states since the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Follow this case: Huntsman v. Heavilin.

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