A federal judge on Thursday declared
Florida's gay marriage ban unconstitutional.
U.S. District Court Judge Robert L.
Hinkle chided state officials in granting summary judgment in a
lawsuit challenging the state's ban.
Florida lawyers argued that the case
was moot given the Supreme Court's June 2015 finding in Obergefell
that gay and lesbian couples have a constitutional right to marry.
Hinkle denied their request to dismiss as moot, saying that state
officials had not “unambiguously terminated” their enforcement of
“The state defendants defended this
case from the outset with vigor,” Hinkle
wrote. “They gave no sway to the United States Supreme Court's
decision in United States v. Windsor … When 18 successive
federal decisions in district and circuit courts said that, under
Windsor, states could not ban same-sex marriage, the
defendants were undeterred.”
“After the United Sates Supreme Court
issued Obergefell, one might have expected immediate,
Hinkle blasted state officials who
continued to drag their feet and lawmakers who have yet to repeal the
“The Surgeon General's approach casts
doubt on whether the State of Florida has voluntarily brought itself
into compliance with Obergefell,” Hinkle wrote. “Indeed,
Obergefell did not explicitly address any Florida
statute. If the Surgeon General believes, as suggested by his motion
to clarify, that he must comply with Florida same-sex marriage laws
until explicitly struck down, then dismissal of this case as moot
would leave him free to go back to where he was before the lawsuit
was filed. The same is true for the Secretary of Management
Services; there are many requirements affecting state employment that
turn on marital status, and many of those have not been explicitly
addressed, either in Obergefell or even in this case.”
“That the Legislature chose not to
pass legislation to bring Florida law into compliance does not help
the defendants. Like the only circuit court that has addressed the
voluntary-cessation issue since Obergefell, I deny the motion
to dismiss this case as moot,” he added.
Daniel Tilley, staff attorney for the
ACLU of Florida, cheered the ruling.
“Today’s decision decisively
affirms the right of same-sex couples to equal treatment under the
law,” Tilley said in a statement. “This is a great decision that
will strengthen Florida’s families. Judge Hinkle painstakingly
described how Florida has resisted compliance with the
Constitution’s mandate of equal treatment every step of the way. He
also noted that our Florida legislature cannot escape the mandates of
the constitution simply by leaving unconstitutional laws on the