A federal judge today declared Florida's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, joining judges across the country who have sided with gay couples wishing to tie the knot. US District Judge Robert Hinkle in Tallahassee ruled that the ban added to Florida's constitution by voters in 2008 violates the 14th Amendment's guarantees of equal protection and due process. Hinkle issued a stay delaying the effect of his order, meaning no marriage licenses will be immediately issued for gay couples. That also means gay couples legally married in other states will not immediately have their marriages recognized in Florida.
Hinkle, an appointee of President Bill Clinton, compared bans on gay marriage to the long-abandoned prohibitions on interracial marriage and predicted both would be viewed by history the same way:
- "When observers look back 50 years from now, the arguments supporting Florida's ban on same-sex marriage, though just as sincerely held, will again seem an obvious pretext for discrimination," Hinkle wrote in his ruling. "To paraphrase a civil rights leader from the age when interracial marriage was struck down, the arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice."
Gay rights have long been a contentious issue in Florida, a politically complex swing state where the northern counties tend to lean Republican like their Deep South neighbors and parts of South Florida are reliably Democratic.