A Florida judge struck down the state's same-sex marriage ban.
The ruling, issued Friday, applies to Miami-Dade County, the Associated Press reports. Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel issued the ruling, which states that "preventing couples from marrying solely on the basis of their sexual orientation serves no governmental interest." Zabel continues,
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 ruling ultimately concludes that same-sex marriage ban violates the due process and equal protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution.
Near the end of the ruling, Zabel narrates a history of discrimination in the U.S., from the revolutionary war, through events like the end of slavery and the discriminatory laws of the 20th Century. "Notably absent from this protracted march towards social justice," she continues, "was any progress for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community until quite recently."
The recognition that the right to marry encompasses categories of people not traditionally considered to be accorded that right has been slow in coming, but it has become increasingly obvious that it is not constitutionally permissible to deny same-sex couples the right to marry.
The case was brought to the court by six Florida couples, as well as a civil rights organization. The cities of Miami Beach and Orlando also participated, arguing against the state's ban on same-sex marriages.
Same-sex marriages aren't going to begin just yet in Florida.
The ruling includes an immediate stay, with Zabel mentioning that the it is "unlikely to be the 'final word' on the topic of same-sex marriage." Zabel also explains in the ruling that while couples shouldn't be denied the right to marry, confusion could arise if licenses were issued.
Although this Court recognizes that a person should not be denied a fundamental right for even one day, it feels the uncertainty that could arise if same-sex couples were to marry pursuant to an order that is subsequently reversed on appeal warrants a stay.
Friday's ruling echoes a similar decision issued last week in Monroe County.
Last week, Circuit Judge Luis Garcia also ruled that Florida's ban on same-sex marriage discriminated against gay couples. Similar to Zabel's ruling, Garcia found that the ban violated the 14th Amendment, which guarantees equal protection and due process.
Garcia's ruling applied only to Monroe County.
The Monroe County decision said that couples could start marrying Tuesday, but a stay automatically went into place when Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi filed a notice to appeal the decision. Gracia later declined to lift the stay, as did another judge for the 3rd District Court of Appeals in Miami-Dade County.
The cases in Monroe and Miami-Dade counties will now move on to a higher court.
The next step for both cases will be to go before the 3rd District Court Appeals, which is based in Miami. After that, they can move to the state Supreme Court, the AP reports.
Florida voters approved the ban on same-sex marriages in 2008.