In a groundbreaking decision in July, Monroe County Chief Circuit Judge Luis M. Garcia ruled that Florida’s longstanding ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional.
This monumental decision came out of the court case of same-sex couple Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones, two bartenders from Key West, who are suing the Miami-Dade County Clerk Office. Judge Garcia ruled that the county clerk would have to start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples soon.
The ruling upheld the couple’s claim that the Florida Constitution’s ban on same-sex marriage violated their constitutional rights. Garcia noted that while his decision might offend the current majority of the state’s voters, it was his duty to uphold the United States’ mission to protect the rights of the individual regardless of the personal opinions held by some citizens.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi immediately filed a notice of appeal, an action that has already put Garcia’s order on hold. Bondi continues to side with the majority, which is just over half of Florida’s voters according to a recent poll. They insist that marriage should only be recognized when it is between a man and a woman.
As of January, six same-sex couples had opted to pursue a lawsuit against the county clerk’s office when Harvey Rubin declined to issue them marriage licenses. Like Huntsman and Jones, who have been together for 11 years, they believe their families deserve the same legal protection marriage affords straight couples. Their attorney is arguing that the ban is a way for the majority to oppress the minority by refusing to accord them the basic rights and dignity heterosexual couples gain through marriage.
This case mirrors others that are popping up throughout the country, but supporters of same-sex marriage fear that the issue will be particularly contentious and drawn out in Florida, which currently has cases fighting the marriage ban in Tallahassee and Miami-Dade County.
To learn more about same-sex marriage cases in Florida and a wide range of other family law issues, consult a Jacksonville attorney with Combs Greene.
Attorney Shane Herbert also contributed to this blog post.