A judge in the Florida Keys overturned the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage today after a legal challenge by gay couples said it effectively made them second-class citizens. The ruling by Circuit Judge Luis M. Garcia applies only to Monroe County, which primarily consists of the Keys, and will certainly be appealed. The lawsuit contended that the same-sex marriage ban approved overwhelmingly by voters in 2008 violated the federal 14th Amendment's guarantee of equal protection under the law. The judge said licenses could not be issued until Tuesday at the earliest.
Attorney General Pam Bondi and ban supporters argued that the referendum vote should be respected and that Florida has sole authority to define marriage in the state. During a recent hearing on a related case in Miami-Dade County, attorneys for gay couples noted that, after a long legal fight, the state finally allowed them to adopt children but refused to recognize them as married. "That inequality stigmatizes the couples and their children as second-class citizens," said attorney Sylvia Walbolt. A separate lawsuit is pending in a federal court in Tallahassee seeking to force Florida to allow gay marriage and recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. (Read more Florida stories.)