On Monday, January 5 at midnight, Florida became the 36th state to legalize gay marriage. The ban on same-sex marriage that had previously been the law in Florida was lifted, but the decision was not official until it was ruled unconstitutional by US District Judge Robert L. Hinkle the following afternoon.
However, Miami-Dade circuit judge Sarah Zabel beat the other Florida county judges to the punch by granting marriage licenses Monday afternoon, before the ban had been officially ruled unconstitutional. The addition of Florida as a state with legal same-sex marriage means that 70% of the American population now lives in a state where gay marriage is legal.
In 2008, voters in Florida voted for gay marriage to be banned in the state of Florida. Many gay people were angered and hurt over the ban, including MAST Academy’s physics teacher Julie Hood, who believed that nothing, the government included, should get in the way of love.
On February 28, 2014 and on March 3, 2014, two lawsuits were filed on behalf of gay couples in Florida who had gotten married in Canada or in other states where gay marriage was legal. As a result of these cases, Judge Robert Hinkle ruled that the ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional and asked to respect marriages performed by same-sex couples in other states.
On December 19, 2014, the Supreme Court denied the state of Florida’s request to extend the ban on same-sex marriage, meaning that on January 5, 2015, gay couples would be able to start getting their marriage licenses.
As soon as the ban was lifted, many gay couples rushed to get married because they wanted to be among the first to be legally married in Florida. Numerous weddings and ceremonies were held in the middle of the night. For example, in Osceola Country, 28 couples were wed in the early hours of the morning.
“I was really blown away [when the ban was lifted,]” Hood said. “The momentum in the country convinced me it was going to happen, but it was still a mind-blower. There have been so many obstacles and federal laws banning it. It’s pretty amazing. I haven’t had anyone say anything negative to me yet.”
Growing up at a time when people were arrested, beaten, or fired from their jobs for just being gay, many people including Hood believed that gays would one day never be able to get married.
There have been many opponents of the ban on same-sex marriage being lifted, including Florida’s attorney general Pam Bondi, who tried to stop the law from passing in all 67 counties of Florida. Bondi’s efforts to block same-sex marriage in Florida by appealing to the US Supreme Court met with failure, as the Supreme Court ruled against Bondi.
After a long, hard-fought battle, same-sex couples have finally received a right previously afforded only to heterosexual couples—the right to marry the person they love.
The once inconceivable dream of the homosexual community to marry their loved ones is becoming reality in the United States and in many other countries across the world.