A Florida Circuit Court judge struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage on Friday, saying the constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2008 is a form of discrimination against gay people. The ruling applies to the heavily populated Miami-Dade County.
"Preventing couples from marrying solely on the basis of their sexual orientation serves no governmental interest," Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel wrote of the decision. "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."
Zabel’s decision echoes a similar ruling made last week by a judge in another Florida county. Monroe County Circuit Judge Luis Garcia said the amendment violated gay peoples’ 14th Amendment right to equal protection under U.S. constitutional law.
But gay couples won’t be able to get marriage licenses in either county any time soon. The ruling must allow time for appeals to be submitted, a process that could take months. Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi has already filed an appeal notice in both cases.
Still, gay marriage proponents celebrated Friday’s ruling for Miami-Dade County.
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"It means so much for a court to recognize our family and say that we must be treated equally," Catherina Pareto, one of the plaintiffs in the case before Zabel, told Associated Press. "We love this state and want nothing more than to be treated as equal citizens who contribute to the community and help make Florida an even better place for everyone who lives here."