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Miami judge finds Florida same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional

A Miami-Dade County judge ruled Friday that Florida's same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional.

A Miami-Dade County judge ruled Friday that Florida's same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional, marking the second time the state's ban has been struck down this month, according to court filings.

Judge Sarah Zabel ruled in favor of the Equality Florida Institute and six Florida couples that had sued the county clerk for the right to marry.

In her 36-page ruling, Zabel found the state's ban was unconstitutional and violated its equal protection clause, and compared the plight of same-sex couples to the struggle of other minority groups to gain equal protections under the law.

"Notably absent from this protracted march towards social justice was any progress for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community until quite recently," Zabel wrote in the ruling. "However, as evidenced by the avalanche of court decisions unanimously favoring marriage equality, the dam that was denying justice on this front has been broken."

Zabel also ordered an immediate stay of her ruling, pending the appeals process. The Florida Attorney General's office filed a notice of appeal shortly after Zabel issued her ruling, according to court documents.

Last week, Monroe County Judge Luis Garcia also found the ban unconstitutional in a ruling that only applied to residents of the Florida Keys. The Florida Attorney General's Office appealed the ruling, and Garcia later declined to allow couples to immediately wed in Monroe County.

The Miami ruling is the latest in a series of court decisions striking down same-sex marriage bans throughout the U.S. On Wednesday, a federal judge found Colorado's ban on same-sex marriage unconstiutional, and recent rulings have also struck down bans in Utah and Indiana.

“Today's ruling is a victory for thousands of couples who have been denied access to marriage," said Equality Flordia CEO Nadine Smith in a statement. "It is a victory for children who have longed for the day when their families would be respected equally under the law. And it is a victory for all Floridians who share the values of fairness and equality under the law."

The state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union also issued a statement praising Zabel's ruling, but noted that the Miami case does not address the recognition of marriage licenses obtained by same-sex couples in other states.

The ACLU said it has filed a separate lawsuit on that matter on behalf of eight couples, and a decision is expected soon in federal court.

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Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times


July 25, 4:36 p.m.: This post updated with comments from the ACLU and notice of the Attorney General's appeal of the ruling.

This post published at 4:19 p.m.