Third Florida judge strikes down gay-marriage ban

In the latest victory for same-sex couples, a Broward County judge has struck down Florida’s ban on gay marriage, but this time to open the door for a lesbian divorce. Circuit Judge Dale Cohen ruled Monday that the state’s voter-approved prohibition against gay marriage violates the due process clause of the U.S. Constitution, echoing recent decisions from two other judges in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.

But in the Broward County case, Heather Brassner was trying to end a “civil union” with Megan Lade. The pair had entered into a civil union in Vermont in 2002, but Brassner wanted a dissolution of the union so she can marry another woman, according to court filings. Cohen was unable to grant the dissolution without first deciding whether the state recognizes same-sex marriages in other states.

Florida’s ban, put into the constitution by voters in 2008, “denies some citizens, based on their sexual orientation, the fundamental right to marry, and does so without a legitimate state purpose,” Cohen wrote in a 16-page order. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on numerous occasions that “the right to marry is a central part of the liberty protected by the due process clause” included in the 14th Amendment, Cohen wrote, rejecting the state’s argument that the same-sex marriage ban is supported by history and tradition.

“That is not a legitimate state concern,” he wrote. “With a full understanding of the politically and emotionally charged sentiments behind the issue of same-sex marriage, this court’s analysis of the law and its ruling is based solely on the law, independent of bias, personal feelings or beliefs, which is the role of the judiciary,” the judge wrote.

Cohen also included an immediate stay on his order, placing it on hold until appeals in the cases in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties are resolved. Lawyers on both sides anticipate that the cases, likely to be consolidated, will wind up before the Florida Supreme Court, and many are also expecting the U.S. Supreme Court to give the final say on the issue.

source: The News Service of Florida