Florida has once again become the latest to rule state-wide bans against same-sex marriage as unconstitutional. Though 62 percent of Florida voters amended the Florida Constitution in 2008 to define marriage as a between one man and one woman, not only did a Monroe County Circuit Court Judge declare on July 17 that marriage is a “fundamental human right” and therefore, gay marriage is a fundamental human right, but Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel of Miami-Dade Country ruled the same last Friday, saying, in impartial words, that her decision is part of a historically deep march towards “inalienable rights” that has challenged slavery, women’s rights issues, and Native American discrimination problems.
“Notably absent from this protracted march towards social justice was any progress for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community until quite recently,” Zabel wrote. “However, as evidenced by the avalanche of court decisions unanimously favoring marriage equality, the dam that was denying justice on this front has been broken.”
The broken dam in question, that released this avalanche, no doubt refers to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of Edith Windsor, in 2013, a judgment that dismissed a key portion of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. Since that time, countrywide successes in federal and state courts that have legalized same-sex marriage have mounted, with Florida’s second decision being the fourteenth such case.
As Zabel dispassionately explained, defining marriage in a way that leaves same-sex couples out, “serves only to hurt, to discriminate, to deprive same-couples and their families of equal dignity, to label and treat them as second-class citizens, and to deem them unworthy of participation in one of the fundamental institutions of our society.”
The key to transforming a nation’s value-system, it seems, is to align the changes with a long tradition, such as the one central idea of the Declaration of Independence, that all men are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights. Having that dynamite clause, and the train of historical changes it inspired, led her to compare her case to the 1967 case of Loving v. Virginia, in which the prohibition of interracial marriage was deemed unconstitutional.
“We’ve said all along that the Loving case is parallel to our case,” said Don Price Johnston, one of the six same-sex couples who sued Miami-Dade County Clerk Harvey Ruvin in this case. “It just shows that discrimination against any class of people is nothing more and nothing less than discrimination. The U.S. society has no stomach for discrimination against anyone.”
62 percent of his society might disagree, and among them would be John Stemberger, the man behind the 2008 campaign to ban gay marriage. “Wow,” he said. “Race and ethnicity are not an inherent property of marriage. Gender, however, is an inherent property of marriage. This is why her reliance on Loving is misplaced. Loving in essence said any man can marry any woman irrespective of race and ethnicity.”
However, our core assumptions about marriage could change, and marriage itself could fundamentally change, assuming that it is a man-made convention, and not divine mandate.
Many, at least, are liking what they hear from the judge, such as Nadine Smith, Equality Florida Executive Director, who the Miami Herald reports said “It’s a beautiful opinion [that] states so clearly and so powerfully that marriage is a fundamental human right and that denial is a violation of our constitutional rights and our dignity.”
Zabel nevertheless placed a stay on her decision, anticipating the likely appeal it must face. After all, the decision in Florida’s Monroe County faced a stay shortly after the state attorney general’s office appealed. But as one plaintiff, Jorge Isaias Diaz, said Friday, “we came into this knowing it probably would go the long haul. We’re confident justice will prevail and we will go as far as we need to go.”