Update, 1:30 p.m.: According to a press release, Once Judge Zabel lifted the stay, Miami-Dade County Clerk Harvey Ruvin stated marriages can begin immediately in the county. Couples have already begun receiving their marriage licenses.
Judge Zabel has agreed to marry the plaintiff couples who wish to marry today. Karla Arguello & Cathy Pareto are the first same-sex couple to receive a marriage license in Florida.
Update, 1:15 p.m.: The top of this story has been edited to clarify that Zabel was lifting her own stay.
In 2014, multiple lawsuits challenged Florida's ban on gay marriage, which was a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2008.
A case called Brenner v. Scott was filed at the federal level by a Tallahassee couple. The federal judge in that case ruled the ban unconstitutional but placed a stay on his decision to allow time for the state to file an appeal. His stay expires tonight, allowing gay marriages to begin across the state after midnight. (The 11th Circuit Court of Apepals is expected to rule on the appeal in the coming months.)
Meanwhile, another case, Pareto v. Ruvin, was winding its way through circuit court. The judge in that case, Sarah Zabel, had likewise declared the ban unconstitutional but placed a stay in her own decision. Today, she lifted that stay, making way for gay marriage to begin immediately in Miami-Dade. The first wedding is expected at 1:30 p.m. and Zabel herself is expected to preside over one couple's marriage.
Eleventh Judicial Court Zabel will presided over the case of Pareto v. Ruvin in July, which had six same-sex couples suing the state and asking the court to rule that Florida's ban on marriage equality is unconstitutional.
The six couples' motion asserted that Florida's marriage ban cannot stand in light of 2013's U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the federal "Defense of Marriage Act" violates the federal constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process.
The plaintiffs in the case included Equality Florida Institute, Catherina Pareto and Karla Arguell, Dr. Juan Carlos Rodriguez and David Price, Vanessa and Melanie Alenier, Todd and Jeff Delmay, Summer Greene and Pamela Faerber, and Don Price Johnston and Jorge Isaias Diaz.
One of the couples, Don Price Johnston and Jorge Isaias Diaz, recently got engaged after dating for a year.
"Both Don and I have very strong ties to Florida and cannot imagine getting married anywhere else," said Diaz, via a statement from Equality Florida. "If we could marry, we would be legally recognized as a family and have all the same legal protections as others."
"Florida is our home; it is where we are raising our child and where we want to get married," said plaintiff Catherina Pareto, who is fighting to marry her partner of 14 years, Karla Arguello. "Karla and I wish for our family the same things that other families want. We want to build our lives together, provide a safe and caring home for our child, and share in the responsibilities and protections of marriage."
Judge Zabel had ruled that Florida's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional in July, and placed a stay on her ruling pending appeal. State Attorney General Pam Bondi did file an appeal at the time.
But, on Saturday, the National Center For Lesbian Rights filed a motion on behalf of the plaintiffs, asking Zabel to lift the stay immediately.
Since the case was filed in Miami-Dade, the immediate lift on the stay applies only there. But, Broward County will also be able to issue licenses to same-sex couples at 12:01 a.m. tonight.
You can get info on fling for a same-sex marriage license in Broward County here.