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Monroe County Judge Overturns Same-Sex Marriage Ban

July 16, 2014 - 6:00pm

A Monroe County judge ruled Thursday to allow gay marriage in the Florida Keys, making the area the first in the state to legalize same-sex marriage.

Circuit Judge Luis Garcia said the county could begin issuing licenses as early as Tuesday.

Garcia ruled to allow gay marriage in Monroe County following a case in which two gay bartenders, Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones, sued the Monroe County Clerk Amy Heavilin for a marriage license.

In 2008, Florida voters approved an amendment to the state Constitution to ban same-sex marriage, with the amendment defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman. The measure passed by nearly 62 percent.

The couples lawsuit contended that the 2008 ballot measure was unconstitutional because it violates the U.S. Constitutions guarantee of equal protection under the law.

The Monroe County suit is similar to another lawsuit filed in Miami-Dade County, in which six same-sex couples as well as LGBT advocacy group Equality Florida Institute sued County Clerk Harvey Ruvin for marriage licenses.

Although Monroe County will allow gay marriages, its still very possible that Attorney General Pam Bondi, who has already come out in support of the ban, could appeal Garcias decision in a higher court.

Bondi and supporters of the ban have said the 2008 referendum needs to be respected

If Bondi chooses to appeal Thursdays ruling and Garcias decision is upheld, its likely that judges in other counties would begin issuing marriage licenses to gay couples.

Equality Florida applauded Thursdays ruling.

LOVE WINS! the group posted on its Facebook page.

Equality Florida also announced it would be hosting several Day of Decision gatherings to celebrate the ruling. Events will be held Thursday in various Florida counties from the Keys to Gainesville.

This story is developing. Check back for updates.

Update: Attorney General Pam Bondi filed an appeal Thursday afternoon against Judge Garcia's decision to find Florida's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen atAllison@sunshinestatenews.comor follow her on Twitter at @AllisonNielsen.

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