Circuit Court Judge Luis M. Garcia of Monroe County, Florida, declared the state’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional Thursday. Nationally, the battle over the definition of marriage has escalated over the past few months. The recent decision in Florida has sparked renewed interest from both sides of the same-sex marriage debate. While gay marriage supporters take to the streets to celebrate, those who support the ban scramble to file appeals.
Gay couples in Florida have been able to adopt children since 2008 but the state still does not allow them the right to marry. The same year the ban on gay parental adoption was lifted, lawmakers decided to ban domestic partnerships and same sex-marriages. There are other jurisdictions aimed at protecting domestic partnerships in Florida. Miami and Tampa are among the places included on that list. Just this April, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer spoke out, saying he hopes that Orlando will be the first city to host a wedding for couples of the same sex. Gay couples raising children are more prevalent in the south. Dyer is aware of this and made statements about protecting those families. Partners of the same sex represent about 6.5 percent of Florida’s couples.
Currently, 19 states grant same-sex couples the right to marry. At least 14 additional states have judges that have ruled against marriage bans and are awaiting appeals. It is estimated that 48 percent of Americans reside in states that grant gay couples the right to marry or honor civil unions and domestic partnerships.
Judge Garcia alluded to examples of historic cases such as Loving v. Virginia and the Little Rock Nine when making his decision. He acknowledged that the majority may not agree with his decision but ultimately concluded that “the Constitution guarantees and protects all of its citizens from government interference with those rights.”
Since Thursday, Florida’s decision has sparked renewed interest in same-sex marriages in at least two more states. Utah won their request for an appeal after a judge ruled against the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. The appeal request means they do not have to honor the 1,300 or so marriages that took place in December after a federal judge decided Utah’s ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional. In Colorado, the state’s higher courts have requested that county clerks stop issuing same-sex marriage licenses. The state’s attorney general, John Suthers, says he plans to defend the state’s voter-approved gay marriage ban defining marriage only between one man and one women, according to CNN News. The attorney general requested an injunction, saying allowing those marriages to be recognized while the issue is still being debated would be “legal chaos.”
Similar actions are expected to take place in Florida. Attorney General Pam Bondi argues that Florida has the right to define marriage within the state. For supporters of the ban, that definition is a union solely between one man and one woman. Bondi’s appeal is likely to send the decision back to the Supreme Court.
In 2013, when the U.S. Supreme Court decided that the Federal Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional, it did not decide if states could ban gay marriage. Because the decisions in Florida to lift the ban on same-sex marriages has sparked a wave of new interest nationwide, the debate is not going away any time soon. Many on both sides believe the U.S. Supreme Court will have to make a major decision within the next year.
By Ashley Poag