Broward County judge again rules Florida’s gay marriage ban unconstitutional


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A judge in Broward County, Fla., who in August declared Florida‘s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional, only to later vacate his order on a technicality, has again ruled the ban violates equal protection as guaranteed by the 14th Amendment.

Broward-County-FLThe ruling Monday by Broward Circuit Judge Dale Cohen comes in a challenge brought by Heather Brassner, who is seeking to dissolve a 2002 Vermont civil union she entered into with her estranged partner Megan Lade.

Brassner petitioned for divorce in Broward County so she can remarry, but Florida, where Brassner has lived for 14 years, does not recognize same-sex marriages or civil unions.

Cohen first ruled in the case on August 4 but vacated the ruling in September because Brassner’s attorney “failed to comply with (state law)” and notify “the Office of the Attorney General of these proceedings by either registered or certified mail.”

Brassner’s attorney, Nancy Brodzki, refiled the case, leading to Monday’s ruling by Cohen.

Cohen is one of four Florida state judges to overturn the ban, joining judges in Monroe, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties. All rulings are on hold pending appeals filed by Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Bondi is also expected to appeal Cohen’s ruling in Brassner’s divorce case.

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Despite the stays in the state challenges, same-sex marriages could begin in Florida as early as January 6.

In a separate federal challenge to the ban, U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle in Tallahassee ruled on August 21 that the ban added to Florida’s constitution by voters in 2008 violates the 14th Amendment’s guarantees of equal protection and due process.

That ruling has been stayed until end-of-day January 5, 2015.

Last week, the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also said it would consider the state’s appeal of Hinkle’s ruling on an expedited basis, but refused to extend past Jan. 5 a hold on that ruling, possibly bringing same-sex weddings one step closer to reality.

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