U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle on Aug. 21 ruled that Florida’s amendment banning gay and lesbian couples from marrying is unconstitutional.
In Brenner v. Scott, attorneys sued the state on behalf of same-sex couples who argue that Florida’s ban on marriage equality violates the U.S. Constitution. Florida voters approved the state constitutional amendment in 2008.
Hinkle, appointed by Bill Clinton, said the state ban violates federal guarantees of Equal Protection and Due Process.
Hinkle said, “Liberty, tolerance, and respect are not zero-sum concepts. Those who enter opposite-sex marriages are harmed not at all when others, including these plaintiffs, are given the liberty to choose their own life partners and are shown the respect that comes with formal marriage. Tolerating views with which one disagrees is a hallmark of civilized society.”
He also wrote, "When observers look back 50 years from now, the arguments supporting Florida's ban on same-sex marriage, though just as sincerely held, will again seem an obvious pretext for discrimination. To paraphrase a civil rights leader from the age when interracial marriage was struck down, the arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice."
The judge stayed his ruling pending appeal, but according to the Human Rights Campaign he ordered the state to immediately recognize the marriage of a woman whose wife died and who wishes to be listed as the legal spouse on her deceased wife’s death certificate.
In a news release, HRC legal director Sarah Warbelow said, “Florida’s committed and loving gay and lesbian couples deserve the right to legally marry in the state they call home. Judge Hinkle’s ruling today is consistent with 20 other consecutive federal court decisions over the last year that have said state bans on marriage equality violate the basic principles of the U.S. Constitution. These discriminatory bans only serve to harm LGBT families, and they should be erased from our nation’s laws once and for all.”
There have been multiple rulings against Florida's ban on same-sex marriages at the state level as well.
"Today is the fifth consecutive victory in Florida and leaves no doubt that this ban serves no purpose but to harm gay couples and their children," said Nadine Smith of Equality Florida Instituter. "We applaud Judge Hinkle for his decision and we call on Gov. (Rick) Scott to lead where Attorney General Pam Bondi has failed."
She continued, "Florida put this discriminatory ban in place and Florida should end it. Our families have waited too long already. We call on Gov. Scott to join us in urging the Florida Supreme Court to take up this issue immediately."
In total, 38 rulings since last year's decision in U.S. v. Windsor have found that state bans on marriage for same-sex couples are unconstitutional.