TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A federal judge nominated by Bill Clinton has declared unconstitutional Florida’s state marriage amendment, which enshrined marriage as being solely between a man and woman.
“When observers look back 50 years from now, the arguments supporting Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage, though just as sincerely held, will again seem an obvious pretext for discrimination,” wrote U.S District Judge Robert L. Hinkle of Tallahassee on Thursday. “Observers who are not now of age will wonder just how those views could have been held.”
The case had been filed after 22 homosexuals in the state, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), sought to either obtain marriage licences or have nuptials from other states recognized in Florida. As previously reported, Florida’s constitutional amendment barring the recognition of homosexual unions passed during November 2008 election. It was approved by 61.9 percent of the vote.
“Inasmuch as marriage is the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife, no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized,” the amendment reads.
But Judge Hinkle compared uniting those of the same sex with men and women of different racial backgrounds being married, and said that society must tolerate that with which they disagree.
“The institution of marriage survived when bans on interracial marriage were struck down, and the institution will survive when bans on same-sex marriage are struck down,” he stated. “Liberty, tolerance, and respect are not zero-sum concepts. Those who enter opposite-sex marriages are harmed not at all when others, including these plaintiffs, are given the liberty to choose their own life partners and are shown the respect that comes with formal marriage. Tolerating views with which one disagrees is a hallmark of civilized society.”
He declared Florida’s marriage amendment a violation of the 14th Amendment’s due process and equal protection clauses.
But John Stemberger of the Florida Family Policy Council, a Christian organization in the state, said that even nature itself shows that man was meant to be complemented in marriage by the woman.
“People ask me, ‘Are you on the wrong side of history?’ To me, this issue will never be on the wrong side of history because it’s rooted in the human experience,” he told the News Service of Florida following the ruling.
“A little boy who longs to have a father in the inner city—that will never be on the wrong side of history,” he said. “The little girl who has two dads and doesn’t have a mom and she wants someone to guide her through the changes that a woman’s body goes through—that’s never going to be on the wrong side of history. And the beauty of how a man and woman come together and life is born, that’s never going to be on the wrong side of history.”
Hinkle stayed his ruling pending appeal. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi says that the matter will likely end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.