Monday, August 4, 2014

Florida Threepeat

A third judge has ruled Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional.

Via Think Progress:

For the third time in as many weeks, a Florida state judge has ruled against the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, this time in Broward County. Circuit Judge Dale Cohen’s ruling differs from the other two in that it grants recognition of marriages performed in other states, but like the others it also overturns the ban. Cohen stayed the decision pending appeal.

Plaintiff Heather Brassner entered into a civil union in Vermont in 2002, but has since separated from her former partner, Megan Lade. Brassner now lives in Florida and is asking the state to dissolve the union. Vermont would end it, but only if both women sign papers agreeing to its end, which is impossible because Lade has disappeared — even a private investigator could not find her. Between Lade’s disappearance and Florida’s ban, which prohibits not only marriage but also any “substantial equivalent thereof” like civil unions, Brassner has been stuck in legal-relationship limbo.

Brassner had originally only filed for divorce, but Cohen didn’t want to rule on her divorce without weighing the impact of the ban. He specifically asked Brassner’s lawyer, Nancy Brodzki, to file a motion for declaratory judgment against the ban so he could rule on it directly.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has already appealed the two prior rulings from Monroe and Miami-Dade counties, which might be combined moving forward. She is expected to appeal in this case as well. Several other challenges have been filed throughout the state that have not yet advanced.

We are still waiting on the ruling from a federal case that was heard in Tallahassee.  Unlike these cases, that ruling could decide the ban state-wide; the first two only were for cases in the jurisdictions of Monroe and Miami-Dade Counties.  Both of those rulings have been stayed pending inevitable appeal.