A Florida judge on Thursday declared the state's ban on gay marriage invalid.

In a 14-page ruling, Monroe County Circuit Judge Luis Garcia called marriage a fundamental right guaranteed to all citizens by the U.S. Constitution.

“Within the body of the Fourteenth Amendment is the Due Process Clause, which guarantees all citizens have certain 'fundamental rights' and that citizens have a right to 'liberty' from governmental intrusion and this right is to be guaranteed and protected by the United States Constitution,” Garcia wrote. “The right to liberty has been described by the United States Supreme Court as, 'the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.' … Encompassed within the right to liberty is the fundamental right to marry.”

“This court concludes that a citizen's right to marry is a fundamental right that belongs to the individual. The right these plaintiffs seek is not a new right, but is a right that these individuals have always been guaranteed by the United States Constitution.”

“This court finds Article 1, Section 27 of The Florida Constitution and Florida Statute 741.01(1) as unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”

Garcia ordered Monroe County Clerk Amy Heavilin to begin issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples on Tuesday, July 22.

Plaintiffs Aaron Huntsman, 43, and William Lee Jones, 42, filed the case in April after they were denied a marriage license by Heavilin.

The men, bartenders at 801 Bourbon Bar in Key West, celebrated their 11th year together on June 10.

In defending the ban, Florida Assistant Attorney General Adam Tanenbaum told Garcia he should “respect the policy decision made by voters,” a reference to Amendment 2, a constitutional amendment prohibiting the state from recognizing any union other than a heterosexual marriage, which was approved by 62 percent of voters in 2008.

Five additional challenges to the ban are wending their way through state and federal courts, including one heard earlier this month.

(Related: Gay rights foe compares overturning Florida's gay marriage ban to KKK lynching.)

(Brief provided by Equality Case Files.)