Ruling by Miami-Dade judge allows same-sex marriages to begin in Florida – MiamiHerald.com

Posted: Monday, January 05, 2015

Miami-Dade County will become the first place in Florida to allow same-sex couples to marry on Monday, 10 hours before a gay-marriage ban that has been ruled unconstitutional is lifted in the rest of the state.

In an 11 a.m. hearing, Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel lifted the legal stay she had placed on her sweeping July decision declaring the ban discriminatory. Clerk of Courts Harvey Ruvin said same-sex marriages would begin at 2 p.m. Same-sex marriages performed out of state will also be recognized in Miami-Dade, effective immediately.

Cheers erupted in downtown Miami’s historic civil courthouse with Zabel’s ruling. Some of the couples who were plaintiffs in the case cried tears of joy. Outside, they held hands and raised their arms in victory.

“I feel good. I am relieved. I feel vindicated,” said Catherina Pareto of Coconut Grove. She and her partner of more than 14 years, Karla Arguello, arrived in cream-colored dresses, ready to get hitched in a few hours — possibly by Zabel herself.

“Finally,” Arguello said. “Finally, our family will not be treated any differently.”

Elsewhere in Florida, most court clerks will start marrying gay couples Tuesday — some of them at 12:01 a.m. — following a federal judge’s order. Several counties in conservative North Florida and the Tampa Bay area have stopped marrying people altogether, in part to avoid marrying same-sex couples.

U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle of Tallahassee declared the state ban unconstitutional in August, but stayed his decision through Monday to give some time for legal appeals. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, a Republican, sought extensions of the stay from the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court, but both turned her down.

In a statement issued Monday, the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops said it was “deeply disappointed” by Hinkle’s decision and by the higher courts’ refusal to grant Bondi an extension.

“Marriage based on the complementarity of the sexes is the lifeblood of family, and family is the foundation of our society,” the bishops said. “The crisis that sadly the family is experiencing today will only be aggravated by imposing this redefinition of marriage. Society must rediscover the irreplaceable roles of both mother and father who bring unique gifts to the education and rearing of children.”

Last year, Zabel was the second state judge — after Judge Luis Garcia in the Florida Keys — to overturn a 2008 voter-approved amendment to Florida’s Constitution that required marriages to be between a man and a woman. In all, four South Florida judges sided with same-sex couples who either sought to marry or divorce, or to have the state recognize their out-of-state marriage. The other two judges hailed from Broward and Palm Beach counties.

Zabel ruled in favor of six same-sex couples from Miami-Dade and Broward, and the LGBT-rights group Equality Florida Institute, who sued last Jan. 21.

In addition to Pareto and Arguello, the other plaintiff couples were Jorge Isaias Diaz and Don Price Johnston of Miami; Dr. Juan Carlos Rodriguez and David Price of Davie; Vanessa and Melanie Alenier of Hollywood; Todd and Jeff Delmay of Hollywood; Summer Greene and Pamela Faerber of Plantation.

Miami Herald staff writer Audra D.S. Burch contributed to this report.

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