Florida marriage ban ruled unconstitutional
July 17th, 2014
In the first of a pair of marriage lawsuits, Huntsman v. Heavilin, a Florida county court has found that the ban on same-sex marriage violates the US Constitution. The ruling applies only to Monroe County. (Miami Herald)
Monroe County Circuit Judge Luis Garcia overturned Florida’s 2008 constitutional gay-marriage ban on Thursday, and ordered that two Key West bartenders be allowed to wed but not before Tuesday.
Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones, who met at a gay pride celebration and have been a couple for 11 years, sued Monroe County Clerk Amy Heavilin in April for a marriage license. Their case mirrors a similar suit in Miami-Dade County, in which six same-sex couples and LGBT advocacy group Equality Florida Institute sued County Clerk Harvey Ruvin for the right to marry.
Judge Garcia found the law in violation of both the Due Process and the Equal Protections provisions of the US Constitution. Additionally, noting that “Where a court suspects animus towards a disadvantaged group a more meaningful level of review is warranted”, Garcia illustrated the animus present in this case.
Fascinatingly, the judge turned to the amicus briefs provided by those opposing equality, specifically to Dr. Judith Reisman, to illustrate their own animus. (Ruling)
The court finds that despite the Amici Curiae assertion that there is no evidence of animus towards homosexuals by the proponents of the Florida Marriage Protection Amendment (FMPA), there is ample evidence not only historically but within the very memorandum of law filed by the Amici Curiae. For example, the affidavits of Dr. Reisman, filed by the Amici Curiae, for the proposition that, “a law encouraging homosexual behaviors appears to increase HIV risk and negative health outcomes and thus creates a danger both to the individual engaging in these behaviors as well as society as a whole.” The Amici Curiae also claims that homosexuality is not the result of biology, genetics or nature, but that in fact it is a choice that is naturally subject to change and within the control of the individual. (See page 20-21 of Amici Curiae memorandum.) The Amici Curiae’s memorandum paints a picture of homosexuals as HIV infected, alcohol and drug abusers, who are promiscuous and psychologically damaged and incapable of long term relationships or of raising children. (Pages 29-39). They contend, “the personal, social and financial costs of these homosexual-specific health problems concern not just those who engage in homosexual activity, but also the larger community of citizens who help provide services and who must bear part of the burden imposed by the health challenges. It is eminently rational for the voters of Florida to seek to minimize the deleterious effect of these conditions on public health, safety and welfare by affirming that marriage in Florida remains the union of one man and one woman.” (Page 39). The court finds that animus has been established by the plaintiffs and that the heightened rational basis test is appropriate.
Also, following an amusing trend, Garcia quoted Scalia on the matter.
Justice Scalia in his dissent in Lawrence v. Texas stated, “Preserving the traditional institution of marriage … is just a kinder way of describing the State’s moral disapproval of same-sex couples,” which is obviously not a legitimate purpose for the unequal treatment.
One of the more interesting side observations in this case is that while Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi expressed her intent to defend the law – and received considerable criticism for doing so – her defense has been so minimal as to infuriate the supporters of inequality.
After the hearing, [Liberty Counsel's Matt] Staver seemed outraged that Tanenbaum spoke for about five minutes at each of the South Florida hearings, and never actually argued in favor of the gay marriage ban.
Staver said [Florida Assistant Attorney General Adam] Tanenbaum’s boss, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, “is giving only window dressing to the Florida Marriage Amendment.”
It appears that the State’s sole argument was that states have the right to set marriage law for themselves.
Judge Garcia was appointed in 2000 by former Governor Jeb Bush.