Saturday, January 10, 2015

188.1 - Good News: marriage justice comes to Florida

Good News: marriage justice comes to Florida

We're going to start, as I try to do every week, with some Good News. This week I actually have four bits of Good News to cover.

The first bit is that the news that Florida is now the 36th state where you can get married without regard to the gender of the person you love. Seventy percent of Americans now live in states where same-sex marriage is legal.

In Florida, it came in two quick waves:

Back in July, Florida Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel declared the state's ban on same-sex marriage to be against the US Constitution. Zabel is a state judge, so the ruling only applied to her jurisdiction, which is limited to Miami-Dade County. Also, she put a stay on her ruling pending appeal, as is common.

On January 5, she lifted the stay, meaning same-sex couples in Miami-Dade County could get married immediately. She then marked the occasion by marrying the two women who brought the suit.

There may have been a touch of vanity in Judge Zabel's decision to act when she did. In August, a month after Zabel ruled, federal District Court Judge Robert Hinkle also found the ban to be unconstitutional. He stayed his order until January 6 to allow time for appeals. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi went to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and then to the Supreme Court, looking for the stay to be extended. She lost both times. So Zabel acted just hours before Hinkle's stay was to expire and his order to go into force. So Zabel might have been thinking a bit of "Hey, I ruled first; I want in on the history, too." For which I would not blame her in the least.

In any event, come midnight that second wave came, Hinkle's stay expired, and marriage justice expanded from Miami-Dade County to the whole state of Florida. Good News indeed.

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