A federal judge joined in the chorus of statewide judges Thursday, ruling Floridas ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle in Tallahassee ruled the 2008 voter-backed ban on same-sex marriage violates the 14th Amendment's guarantees of equal protection and due process.
Hinkles decision is a result of two separate lawsuits filed by gay couples -- one lawsuit filed by couples who wish to marry in Florida and another which requests that Florida recognize same-sex marriages performed legally in other states.
But despite Thursdays ruling, wedding bells in the Sunshine State might not be chiming any time soon for same-sex couples.
Hinkle issued a stay delaying the effect of the order, which means gays will still have to wait for further court decisions before being issued marriage licenses.
Other judges in Broward, Monroe, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties already ruled the ban as unconstitutional earlier this summer, but their decisions were appealed by Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who recently said the state should await a final ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court.
Neither this court nor the Florida Supreme court can decide this federal issue with finality, Bondi wrote to the states 3rd District Court of Appeal earlier this month. The United States Supreme Court, however, has the final word on the United States Constitution.
Hinkle said he believes the rationale to ban same-sex marriage will be seen as discriminatory further down the road. In his 33-page ruling, he compared the ban on same-sex marriage to interracial marriage.
When observers look back 50 years from now, the arguments supporting Floridas ban on same-sex marriage, though just as sincerely held, will again seem an obvious pretext for discrimination, Hinkle wrote. Observers who are not now of age will wonder just how those views could have been held.
For the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, which represented some of the couples in the lawsuit, Thursdays decision served as just another indicator that Florida is well on its way toward legalizing gay marriage.
We are thrilled that these loving and committed couples will soon have the same protections and security for their families that other married couples have, said, the ACLU staff attorney Daniel Tilley. Were very pleased to see the ban held unconstitutional in such unequivocal terms so that all Florida families will soon finally have the same protections.
Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen via email email@example.com follow her on Twitter: @AllisonNielsen.