Judge strikes down FL same-sex marriage ban

Miami, Florida -- A Broward County circuit court judge has declared Florida's gay marriage ban unconstitutional, the third judge in less than a month to do so.

Judge Dale Cohen's ruling would apply to the entire state, but the Miami Herald reports he has stayed his decision, pending an appeal by the state of Florida.

The ruling applies to out-of-state same-sex marriages, as well as overturning the ban in Broward County only.

Judges in two other South Florida cases also ruled that the ban was unconstitutional, but those cases were more narrow in scope, striking the ban down only in Monroe and Miami-Dade counties, respectively. Both of those rulings have also been stayed, as Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi appeals the rulings. Bondi is expected to appeal the Broward County ruling as well.

Ruling stems from separation case

The latest court case came from a South Florida lesbian who wanted to marry her new partner, but needed a divorce from her former same-sex spouse.

Heather Brassner and Megan Lade, were united in a civil union in Vermont in 2002 two years before the first gay and lesbian couples in the United States were allowed to marry in Massachusetts, and seven years before gay-marriage became legal in Vermont.

Brassner, 41, told The Miami Herald that Lade cheated on her four years ago and has since disappeared. She is now left stuck in the civil union, because Vermont must have both women sign to dissolve the union and Lade can't be located. According to the divorce filing, the Petitioner and even a private investigator have failed to located Lade.

Brassner took the case to the Broward Circuit Court, hoping to have Florida's 2008 gay-marriage ban ruled unconstitutional and being granted a divorce.

Monroe Chief Circuit Judge Luis Garcia ruled Florida's gay-marriage ban unconstitutional on July 17 and said Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones of Key West could marry.

A little more than a week later, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel ruled six same-sex couples in South Florida also had the right to marry.

WFOR CBS4 Miami contributed to this report.


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