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Same-sex marriage ban struck down for Miami area, ruling put on hold

Friday, July 25, 2014
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Florida

Updated: 7:40 p.m. EDT

MIAMI — A Florida judge on Friday overturned the state’s ban on same-sex marriage in a ruling that applies to Miami-Dade County, agreeing with a judge in another county who made a similar ruling last week.

Still, no marriage licenses will be issued for same-sex couples in either county any time soon to allow for appeals.

The ruling by Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel mirrors the decision made earlier by Monroe County Circuit Judge Luis Garcia. Both found the constitutional amendment approved by Florida voters in 2008 discriminates against gay people.

They said it violates their right to equal protection under the law guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment.

“Preventing couples from marrying solely on the basis of their sexual orientation serves no governmental interest,” Zabel wrote. “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.”

The effect of Garcia’s ruling was put on hold when Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi filed notice of appeal.

Zabel also stayed the effect of her ruling indefinitely to allow time for appeals, which could take months, and Bondi promptly followed up Friday by filing an appeal notice in the Miami-Dade case. The county of 2.6 million people is in the top 10 in population in the U.S.

Both judges were appointed by former Republican Gov. Jeb Bush and have been re-elected.

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The legal battleground will next shift to the Miami-based 3rd District Court of Appeal for both cases, and most likely after that to the state Supreme Court. Nevertheless, Friday’s ruling was cause for celebration for gay couples across the Miami area.

“It means so much for a court to recognize our family and say that we must be treated equally,” said Catherina Pareto, one of the plaintiffs in the case. “We love this state and want nothing more than to be treated as equal citizens who contribute to the community and help make Florida an even better place for everyone who lives here.”

Same-sex ban supporters argue 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.

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