U.S. Supreme Court: Gay Marriage Bans Like Florida's Are Unconstitutional

Today the justices of the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) released their decision on Obergefell v. Hodges. With a 5-4 ruling, they decided that state laws barring same-sex couples from marrying are unconstitutional. 

Although regulating marriage licenses remains an issue for the states, they cannot issue licenses in an unconstitutional manner. The court's decision today specifies that the 14th Amendment requires states to issue license marriages between two people of the same sex and to recognize same-sex marriages done out of state. 

In Florida, a constitutional amendment passed by voters banned same-sex marriage in the state. 

In his opinion, Justice Kennedy wrote, "No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right."

Florida's LGBT community is beyond ecstatic at today's news. 

"Today is a great day for all Americans," said James Brenner, whose case challenging Florida's same-sex marriage brought marriage equality to the Sunshine State in early January. "It demonstrates that our democracy works as the founders intended. As Jefferson said, if the majority preys on a minority, it will be up to the judiciary to fix it. That is what we have seen here. As Macklemore said in 'Same Love,' a piece of paper ain't going to solve it all, but it is a damn good place to start."

Earlier this month, Brenner told New Times he worried what would happen to Florida's same-sex couples if SCOTUS chose to let states define marriage for themselves. He and some other LGBT advocates were concerned that an antigay ruling would inhibit same-sex marriage from continuing in Florida and that gay couples should marry before the SCOTUS ruling so they could be protected under the law in case things went awry for LGBT rights.

Late last year, Florida Attorney Pam Bondi had appealed U.S. Federal Court Judge Robert Hinkle's decision on Brenner's case that Florida's gay-marriage ban violated the due-process and equality clauses of the 14th Amendment. Since the 11th Circuit stated it would not decide on Brenner v .Scott until SCOTUS made its decision on the Sixth Circuit case of Obergefell, many LGBT Floridians were unsure of the fate of same-sex marriage. 

However, now the 11th Circuit Court of Appeal will surely uphold today's decision by SCOTUS, which confirms marriage equality in Florida and brings it to all 50 states as well.  

"Love always wins," said a jubilant Brenner. 
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Jonathan Kendall
Contact: Jonathan Kendall