Equality Florida Institute
(Miami, FL, July 17, 2014)Today, a state trial court in Monroe County issued a decision striking down Florida's ban on marriage for same-sex couples and ordering Monroe County to allow same-sex couples to marry. The Court's order provides that the Monroe County Clerk can begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on July 22, 2014.
Said Nadine Smith, CEO, Equality Florida Institute: "This is a monumental step forward for Florida. Today's historic ruling affirms what the majority of Florida residents already know to be true: All couples and their families deserve to be treated equally by their government."
The case was brought by Key West residents Aaron Hunstman and William Lee Jones. They are represented by Bernadette Restivo of the law firm Restivo, Reilly & Vigil-Farinas LLC.
On July 7, 2014, Judge Luis Garcia, Monroe County Circuit Court heard oral argument in the case. The couples argued that Florida's ban on marriage equality cannot stand in light of the United States Supreme Court's ruling in June 2013 that the federal "Defense of Marriage Act" violates the federal constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process.
Judge Garcia was appointed by former Governor Jeb Bush, a Republican.
Every court to consider these federal constitutional claims since last summer's Supreme Court decision has ruled in favor of the freedom to marry, including federal and state courts in Utah, Ohio, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kentucky, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
STATEWIDE CELEBRATIONS THIS EVENING
Equality Florida Institute, in partnership with several Florida organizations, will hold gatherings throughout the state today. These Decision Day gatherings will give an opportunity for all fair-minded Floridians to voice their support for the freedom to marry. Plaintiff couples, members of the legal community and local leaders plan to be at rallies as their schedules allow. See www.eqfl.org
Equality Florida Institute is the state's largest civil rights organization dedicated to securing full equality for Florida's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
From Human Rights Campaign
WASHINGTON Today Monroe County Circuit Judge Luis Garcia, appointed by Republican Governor Jeb Bush, ruled against Florida's constitutional amendment banning marriage equality, making the Sunshine State the latest to see such a ban struck down in court since the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its historic marriage rulings last June. In Huntsman v. Heavilin, attorneys with the law offices of Restivo, Reilly & Vigil-Fariñas LLC sued the state on behalf of a same-sex couple who argue that Florida's ban on marriage equality violates the U.S. Constitution. In his ruling, Judge Garcia wrote, "This court concludes that a citizen's right to marry is a fundamental right that belongs to the individual." The ruling was stayed until Tuesday, July 22, at which point same-sex couples in Monroe County can begin obtaining marriage licenses, unless a stay is requested by the state attorney general and granted by the state court of appeals or Florida Supreme Court.
"Today's court ruling in Florida is further proof that America is ready for marriage equality nationwide," said Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ) Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. "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."
There are over 70 court cases challenging discriminatory marriage bans across the country in 30 of the 31 states where such a ban exists, plus Puerto Rico. Cases from twelve states are currently pending before six federal appeals courts. The Sixth Circuit holds the distinction of being the only federal appeals court to date that will consider marriage cases from all states within its jurisdiction. In total, 33 states either have marriage equality or have seen state marriage bans struck down as unconstitutional in court. Since the Supreme Court's historic marriage rulings last year, there have been 16 consecutive federal court decisions that bans on marriage equality are unconstitutional. These rulings have come from judges appointed by both Democrat and Republican presidents.
Gallup puts support for marriage equality at 55 percent an astonishing 15 points increase from just 5 years ago with other polls showing support at even higher margins. And support for same-sex marriage rights continues to grow in virtually every demographic group. According to ABC News / Washington Post, 77 percent of adults under age 30 favor marriage equality. 40 percent of Republicans an all-time high and jump of 16 points in under two years now support marriage for gay and lesbian couples, while the number of Catholics supporting marriage has grown to 62 percent,according to the New York Times. These numbers continue to grow, with no indication that support will slow down.
Same-sex couples can legally marry in nineteen states and the District of Columbia, while 31 states have a law or constitutional amendment restricting marriage to the union of one man and one woman. Learn more about this and other marriage equality cases at www.americansformarriageequality.org