U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle ruled against Florida’s constitutional amendment Thursday banning marriage equality, making the Sunshine State the latest to see such a ban struck down in federal court since the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its historic marriage rulings last June.
In Brenner v. Scott, the private attorneys sued the state on behalf of same-sex couples who argue that Florida’s ban on marriage equality violates the U.S. Constitution.
In his ruling, Judge Hinkle wrote, “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.”
Judge Hinkle stayed his ruling while the case is on appeal, but ordered the state to immediately recognize the marriage of a woman whose wife passed away and wishes to be listed as the legal spouse on her deceased wife’s death certificate.
“Florida’s committed and loving gay and lesbian couples deserve the right to legally marry in the state they call home,” said Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “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 are over 70 court cases challenging discriminatory marriage bans across the country in 30 of the 31 states where such a ban exists, plus Puerto Rico. Cases from eleven states are currently pending before five federal appeals courts. The Sixth Circuit holds the distinction of being the only federal appeals court to date that will consider marriage cases from all states within its jurisdiction. In total, 33 states either have marriage equality or have seen state marriage bans struck down as unconstitutional in court. Since the Supreme Court’s historic marriage rulings last year, there have been 21 consecutive federal court decisions that bans on marriage equality are unconstitutional. These rulings have come from judges appointed by both Democrat and Republican presidents.
Gallup puts support for marriage equality at 55 percent – an astonishing 15 points increase from just 5 years ago – with other polls showing support at even higher margins. And support for same-sex marriage rights continues to grow in virtually every demographic group. According to ABC News/Washington Post, 77 percent of adults under age 30 favor marriage equality. Forty percent of Republicans – an all-time high and jump of 16 points in under two years – now support marriage for gay and lesbian couples, while the number of Catholics supporting marriage has grown to 62 percent, according to the New York Times. These numbers continue to grow, with no indication that support will slow down.
Same-sex couples can legally marry in nineteen states and the District of Columbia, while 31 states have a law or constitutional amendment restricting marriage to the union of one man and one woman. Learn more about this and other marriage equality cases here.