If same-sex couples can get married in Florida, like everyone else, they can get divorced too. That's what Broward Judge Dale Cohen essentially ruled on Monday when he overturned the state's ban on gay marriage while presiding over the divorce of a same-sex couple who had been married out of state.
This is actually the second time Cohen has ruled that Florida's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional after having to vacate his original ruling over a legal technicality.
And now, on the heels of the 11th Judicial Circuit of Florida not extending a marriage ban stay last week, same sex marriages can effectively begin come January 6. And divorces can come as well.
Cohen's ruling dealt specifically with a same-sex couple who were joined in a same-sex civil union in Vermont in 2002. Heather Brassner had been seeking a divorce from Megan Lade after Lade apparently met someone else and left the union. Brassner moved to Florida.
Brassner had been seeking to get an official divorce from Lade, but the court needed to recognize the relationship as an out-of-state civil union in order to grant it. This meant Cohen had to weigh in on Florida's same-sex marriage ban.
After their 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. For the divorce to be official, Cohen had to declare the ban unconstitutional so that Brassner and Lade's civil union could be legally recognized and for the divorce to be official.
In August, Cohen then ruled that Florida's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, becoming the third Florida judge to do so at the time. The judge also issued a stay on his ruling to await appeals that would come from the state.
However, Cohen was forced to vacate his ruling in September after he learned Brassner's attorney failed to properly notify the state of the proceedings and give them enough time to appeal.
In December, Cohen again ruled the ban unconstitutional but placed his ruling on hold until an appeal.
And, on Monday, Cohen once again issued a ruling overturning the same-sex marriage ban.
"Florida's ban on same-sex marriage violates the guarantees of due process and equal protection under the laws," Cohen's ruling says.
Cohen also added that his ruling is "based solely on the law, independent of bias, personal feelings or beliefs."
Meanwhile, Brassner, a longtime Florida resident, has been in a four-year relationship with another woman and says she would like to get married again.
Come January 6, she'll be able to if she wishes.
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