Miami-Dade County has become the first place in Florida to allow same-sex couples to marry on Monday, 10 hours before a gay-marriage ban that has been ruled unconstitutional is lifted in the rest of the sunshine state.
In an 11 a.m. hearing, Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel lifted the legal stay she had placed on her sweeping July decision declaring the ban discriminatory the Miami Herald reported. Clerk of Courts Harvey Ruvin said same-sex marriages would begin at 2 p.m. Same-sex marriages that are performed out of state will also be recognized in Miami-Dade, effective immediately.
Cheers could be heard in downtown Miami’s historic civil courthouse with Zabel’s ruling. Some of the couples who were plaintiffs in the case shed tears of joy. Outside, surrounded by a slew of reporters and photographers, couples held hands and raised their hands in victory.
“I feel good. I am relieved. I feel vindicated,” said Catherina Pareto of Coconut Grove. She and her partner of more than 14 years, Karla Arguello, arrived together in matching cream-colored dresses, ready to tie the knot in just a few more hours – possibly by Zabel herself.
“Finally,” Arguello said. “Finally, our family will not be treated differently.”
Elsewhere in Florida, most court clerks will begin marrying gay couples on Tuesday – some of them at 12:01 a.m. – following a federal judge’s order.
U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle of Tallahassee declared the state ban unconstitutional in August, but stayed his decision through Monday to allow time for legal appeals. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, a Republican, sought extensions of the stay from the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court, however both turned her down.
In a statement issued Monday, the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops said it was “deeply disappointed” by Hinkle’s decision and by the appeals courts’ refusal to grant Bondi an extension, stating: “Marriage based on the complementarity of the sexes is the lifeblood of family, and family is the foundation of our society,” the bishops said. “The crisis that sadly the family is experiencing today will only be aggravated by imposing this redefinition of marriage. Society must rediscover the irreplaceable roles of both mother and father who bring unique gifts to the education and rearing of children.”