Monroe County Judge Rules Same-Sex Marriage Ban Unconstitutional
On Thursday, July 17, Judge Luis Garcia of the Monroe County Circuit Court ruled that Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. This makes for a happy ending for Key West bartenders Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones, who were denied a marriage license when they attempted to apply for one. They sued Monroe County Clerk Amy Heavilin on April 1, and their court case was heard in the Upper Keys on July 7.
Just ten days after hearing arguments, Judge Garcia ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and put into motion marriage equality in the state of Florida. He wrote in his ruling, “This court is aware that the majority of voters oppose same-sex marriage, but it is our country’s proud history to protect the rights of the individual, the rights of the unpopular and the rights of the powerless, even at the cost of offending the majority.”
What does it mean for people who want to get married right now? As of press time, what we understand is that they can’t. The ruling was stayed until Tuesday, July 22. However, Attorney General Pam Bondi immediately appealed, meaning a stay was issued automatically. No marriage bells will be tolling in Monroe County, or anywhere else in Florida, until a future ruling is issued either by a state appeals court or the Florida Supreme Court. This would then extend marriage rights statewide, instead of just in Monroe County, should the future judges also side with the plaintiffs.
Also as of press time, there are still a number of rulings waiting in the wings, such as the case Equality Florida has against Miami-Dade County Clerk Harvey Ruvin. If that case comes to a conclusion like the one presented by Judge Garcia, couples will be allowed to marry in Miami-Dade County only (but will most likely be stayed upon appeal by Attorney General Bondi). It looks more and more clear that gay Florida couples will not be married until the issue is settled in the state’s highest courts. But the first of many dominoes has been knocked down in the Sunshine State, and Judge Garcia’s ruling is the 25th in favor of gay couples across the country since the Defense of Marriage Act was struck down last year.
This ruling is a watershed moment for gay Floridians who wish to celebrate their love and cement their commitment in the state of their residence. We at Hotspots couldn’t be happier as we wish all the couples who are going to marry the best of luck, and so much love.
We originally interviewed plaintiff Aaron Huntsman as a website exclusive back in April. To read his interview, click “Feature Stories” under the Features tab on our website, hotspotsmagazine.com.