Broward County Judge Rules for Same Sex Marriage in Florida

Broward County Circuit Court Judge Dale Cohen just became the third Florida judge in thee weeks to rule that the state's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

Cohen had been presiding over a same-sex couple's divorce. The couple were not married in Florida, but the court needed to recognize the relationship as an out-of-state civil union in order to grant a divorce. This meant Cohen had to weigh in on Florida's same-sex marriage ban.

One of the parties in the couple, Heather Brassner, had been seeking a divorce from Megan Lade. The two were married in Vermont in 2002. But, as it goes sometimes, the two soon separated.

After the separation, Lade disappeared. Brassner hired a private eye to track her down, but that was unsuccessful.

Brassner then decided to file for divorce in absentia.

"We've been separated for four years," Brassner, 41, told the Miami Herald last week. "I call it 'the invisible string.' It's hard because you've moved on but there is that fear there that they may come back and try to get you. I live in fear that she might go after me for money. In other states, she could use my name to buy property. I've been checking my credit reports. In a state where they recognize it, she has spousal rights that I don't."

In order for the divorce to be official, Cohen had to declare the ban unconstitutional, in so that Brassner and Lade's civil union could be legally recognized, and for the divorce to be official.

Just a couple of weeks ago, Miami judge Sarah Zabel of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court ruled in favor of six same-sex couples that filed a motion asserting that Florida's same-sex marriage ban cannot stand in light of last year's U.S. Supreme Court of Miami-Dade ruling that the federal "Defense of Marriage Act" violates the federal constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process.

Florida's ban on same-sex marriage was added to the state constitution in 2008.

"Every win in court brings us closer than we've ever been to the freedom to marry in Florida,"Equality Florida's Nadine Smith said. "We look forward to the day when all loving, committed couples and their families enjoy the same protections, opportunities and responsibilities of marriage under the law. Every passing day inflicts real hardships on families who are denied the legal protection and dignity that marriage equality provides."

Much like Zabel's ruling, Cohen issued an immediate stay on his own ruling. Attorney General Pam Bondi has appealed Zabel's ruling, as well as Monroe County Circuit Court Judge Luis Garcia's ruling against the state's ban on same-sex marriage in Key West three weeks ago.

Bondi is expected to appeal Cohen's ruling as well.

Cohen ruling:

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Chris Joseph
Contact: Chris Joseph