A third state judge in as many weeks declared Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional in a ruling handed down Monday.
Circuit Court Judge Dale Cohen found that Florida law prohibiting same-sex marriage and the recognition of legal same-sex marriages performed in other states violate the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the U.S. Constitution. Cohen stayed his decision, which applies only to Broward County, pending appeal.
“The Court’s decision does not speak to the views of society on traditional beliefs about marriage, religious beliefs about marriage, or morality; the decision is based on legal precedents regarding whether the State of Florida can intrude without a legitimate purpose on the fundamental right to marry and the right to have an out-of-state same-sex civil union recognized,” Cohen wrote, declaring that Florida “cannot impose inequality under the Constitution.”
The case was brought by a Heather Brassner, who is seeking to dissolve a civil union she entered into with Megan Lade in 2002 in Vermont and to marry her current partner. Because Florida does not recognize the civil union performed in a different state, Brassner has been unable to formally dissolve the relationship in the state she has lived in for 14 years.
Cohen’s ruling comes after two other state circuit court judges have also found Florida’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional. On July 25, Circuit Court Judge Sarah Zabel struck down the Florida ban in a ruling that applies only to Miami-Dade County. A week prior, on July 17, Chief Circuit Judge Luis Garcia reached a similar conclusion in a ruling that applies only to Monroe County.
“Our country has evolved each generation, and the generation before is often baffled at the changes,” Cohen wrote. “Setting aside personal biases, feelings, beliefs and anxieties, and embracing change is often difficult but essential to ensuring that all people are treated fairly under our Constitution. Our country has always strived to recognize the rights of all people. Equality is the cornerstone of our nation. In pursuit of that ideal comes the often-uncomfortable feeling of change. We have learned that over time change become apart of what this great nation is all about.”