Gay and lesbian rights advocates continued their undefeated run Thursday when a federal judge ruled Florida's same-sex marriage ban to be unconstitutional -- though he didn't go so far to allow such marriages to take place right away.
U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle noted in his ruling that his is now one of 19 federal courts that have struck down state laws that bar gay and lesbian couples from marrying. While most of the time those decisions were put on hold as appeals work their way through the system, they have all reached the conclusion.
Like those other judges, Hinkle said the Florida ban -- first put into law in 1977 and written into the state's constitution after a 2008 referendum -- violates the "due process" and "equal protection" provisions in the U.S. Constitution.
His ruling applies both to whether same-sex couples can marry in Florida\ as well as whether their marriages elsewhere should be recognized in the Sunshine State.
"The Florida provisions that prohibit the recognition of same-sex marriages lawfully entered elsewhere, like the federal provision, are unconstitutional," Hinkle writes. "So is the Florida ban on entering same-sex marriages."
Yet his decision, while firmly in support of allowing same-sex marriage, won't take effect immediately.
Hinkle's reasoning: It doesn't make sense to open up and allow such unions, only to have higher courts later reverse his decision -- thus leaving some couples potentially in legal limbo.
Earlier this summer, state Circuit Court Judge Sarah Zabel wrote a similar ruling, based on a similar rationale. She, too, immediately stayed her own order "pending the outcome of the expected appeal."