Federal Judge Strikes Down Florida Gay Marriage Ban

August 22, 2014

When Democratic political operative Christian Ulvert started his career nearly a decade ago, he was in the closet.

Since then, Ulvert — now the Florida Democratic Party’s political director — has come out in the open about his homosexuality, married his partner Carlos Andrade and seen his career skyrocket.

But it was U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle’s ruling Thursday striking down Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage that Ulvert said validated his personal journey.

“It’s a judge recognizing my marriage to my husband in a state where I was born and raised. And it means that a law that discriminated against couples like me and Carlos is unconstitutional,” said Ulvert, who married Andrade last year in Washington, D.C.

Ulvert — who said his journey has morphed his sexuality from a political liability “to pride, joy and positive acceptance”—
and his partner are among nine sets of same-sex couples in two combined federal lawsuits challenging the state’s ban on gay marriage. Hinkle’s ruling is the latest in a string of court victories for same-sex couples and LGBT advocates in Florida but the first statewide ruling. Although gay couples won’t be tying the knot in Florida any time soon because the judge placed a hold on his ruling, Hinkle’s opinion is considered historic in a state where voters just six years ago placed a prohibition against gay marriage in the state constitution.

“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. 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,” Hinkle wrote in a 33-page decision.

The lawsuit accuses the Florida prohibition on same-sex marriage of allowing disparate treatment, including in benefits extended to couples such as retirement plans and health insurance. The plaintiffs include Arlene Goldberg who married Carol Goldwasser in New York in 2011 and had been with her mate for 47 years. Goldberg sued because she could not receive Social Security survivor benefits after Goldwasser died earlier this year. Hinkle also ruled Thursday that Goldberg should be listed on her spouse’s death certificate.

While advocates are celebrating the Tallahassee federal judge’s decision, couples across the country like Ulvert and his partner are biding their time until the U.S. Supreme Court, which paved the way for Hinkle’s ruling, renders a final decision on gay marriage.

In the meantime, Hinkle ruled that the ban interferes with couples’ rights to due process and equal protection and likened the prohibition against same-sex unions to laws that prevented blacks and whites from marrying nearly 50 years ago. The U.S. Supreme Court, Hinkle wrote, has “sometimes listed marriage as the very paradigm of a fundamental right.”

Hinkle rejected arguments that same-sex marriages should be banned because gay couples cannot procreate, saying that individuals who are medically unable to have children can marry in Florida and their marriages, if performed elsewhere, are recognized in the state.

“The undeniable truth is that the Florida ban on same-sex marriage stems entirely, or almost entirely, from moral disapproval of the practice,” Hinkle wrote.

Hinkle’s ruling comes after four similar state-court rulings in Florida since a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision last year in the United States v. Windsor case that overturned the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Courts in 19 other states have since struck down restrictions on same-sex marriages in lawsuits sparked by the Supreme Court decision.

Florida Family Policy Council President John Stemberger, who drafted and pushed the 2008 constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, said Thursday he was surprised by Hinkle’s ruling because, in the Windsor decision, the Supreme Court had deferred in part to states to make decisions about gay marriage.

“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. A little boy who longs to have a father in the inner city — that will never be on the wrong side of history. 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 and the next generation springs from that, that’s never going to be on the wrong side of history,” Stemberger said.

Like judges in the other Florida cases, Hinkle issued a stay of his ruling pending appeals. A spokesman for Attorney General Pam Bondi, who has represented the state in all of the cases, said her office is reviewing Hinkle’s ruling.

Stemberger, however, said he remains hopeful.

“I’m done being discouraged. I’m done being happy when we win and sad when we lose. I just want to be faithful doing what I think is the right thing in the end,” Stemberger said. “I can’t control history. All I can do is use the influence that I have for the right thing.”

by Dara Kim, The News Service of Florida


27 Responses to “Federal Judge Strikes Down Florida Gay Marriage Ban”

  1. David Huie Green on August 23rd, 2014 2:00 pm

    “There is something very wrong with one man (judge) having the ability to change the constitution of the State of Florida with a stroke of his pen. Judges are supposed to interpret and apply the laws as written, ”

    There are levels of laws. The Constitution forbids some laws.
    An illegal law is null and void.

    For example, if the Constitution flatly forbids any law infringing the right of the people to keep and bear arms. Any law doing so is unlawful even though passed by federal, state, county or city government.
    It is the duty of the judges to say so.

    Other things are more iffy which is why we have a Supreme Court to rule on whether or not lower courts ruled correctly, but this is still applying the supreme law of the nation, the Constitution, to make certain all laws are in compliance.

    The Constitution can be and sometimes is changed to say something other than what it originally said, but that is also the only lawful way to do it.

    I’m not sure the Fourteenth Amendment’s “equal protection under the law” applies here, but IF it does, then the constitution of the State of Florida was already illegal and it just needed a wise judge to tell us so.

    One thing which is not iffy, is that the Constitution requires all states to recognize the actions of other states.
    (Article 4, Section 1. “Full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state.” )

    Therefore if something is legal under the laws of Washington,
    that legality extends to the State of Florida.

    David for better laws

  2. David Huie Green on August 23rd, 2014 11:48 am

    Take yourself ten wives.
    Why should only one woman be ecstatic?

    David for happiness

  3. LoveisLove on August 23rd, 2014 11:46 am

    I am a Lesbian and I am a Christian. I DO NOT think that God hates me or disown me just because I am married to a women. I do not try to force all my “gayness” on to others. I am a keep to my self and my love for my wife. I don’t “flaunt” it. I don’t marry for tax benefits. I married her for the love I have for her. But some of you Christians try to force religion down other people’s throat. I understand what the Bible says but don’t just follow ONE scripture on the bible follow ALL; .       Burning any yeast or honey in offerings to God (2:11)

    2.       Failing to include salt in offerings to God (2:13)

    3.       Eating fat (3:17)

    4.       Eating blood (3:17)

    5.       Failing to testify against any wrongdoing you’ve witnessed (5:1)

    6.       Failing to testify against any wrongdoing you’ve been told about (5:1)

    7.       Touching an unclean animal (5:2)

    8.       Carelessly making an oath (5:4)

    9.       Deceiving a neighbour about something trusted to them (6:2)

    10.   Finding lost property and lying about it (6:3)

    11.   Bringing unauthorised fire before God (10:1)

    12.   Letting your hair become unkempt (10:6)

    13.   Tearing your clothes (10:6)

    14.   Drinking alcohol in holy places (10:9)

  4. M in Bratt on August 23rd, 2014 9:03 am

    There is something very wrong with one man (judge) having the ability to change the constitution of the State of Florida with a stroke of his pen. Judges are supposed to interpret and apply the laws as written, not re-write the constitution of a state or it’s laws as they see fit. If this were the way it was meant to be, there would be no point in having elections, or the ability to change the constitution at the ballot box, Just let one Judge make all the laws. The voters of Florida spoke, and the Judges are not listening

  5. Bryan Bethea on August 23rd, 2014 7:48 am

    There is no rational legal argument that can be made to prohibit same sex marriage. Cite all of the bible passages you’d like, but it does not change the underlying fact that the 14th Amendment to the Constitution guarantees equal protection under the law for all Americans, not just those who subscribe to a particular religious tradition.

    If your religious beliefs do not sanction same sex marriage then you are free to feel that way, not personally recognize such unions, and even protest against them. However, in time you will be viewed as no different then Bull Connor and George Wallace with their protestations for racial segregation.

    Same sex marriage will be legal in all fifty states after the next Supreme Court term.

  6. 429SCJ on August 23rd, 2014 6:53 am

    You don’t see the Necrophiliacs out carrying posters stating “Dead is Good”, protesting and parading.

    I would suggest keeping your activities to yourself in private.

  7. Sue Ellen on August 22nd, 2014 10:36 pm

    Why not allow same-sex marriage? Give them the chance to be as miserable as those in hetero marriages. :)

  8. Curious on August 22nd, 2014 2:55 pm

    Also, the preachers that say its ok for members of same sex to be together is totally wrong, they are not true preachers, they’re out for your pocketbook not your salvation.

  9. Curious on August 22nd, 2014 2:45 pm

    Ben Thar, you totally missed the comprehension part in Lisa’s comment about straighten up, also, when families split, a kid has to grow up too quick & gets torn apart, people can stay together without having exes or steps by straightening up & putting their kids/grandkids first. Those step families have problems too. So if you haven’t gotten married yet, don’t go to your family if you ever have marital problems, theyll rip you slap apart, especially if they cant handle siding with the opposite family member, alot of people side with jr for slapping his wife, but what they ought to do is take jr outback & give him the once over, my point is its always 2 sides to every story, go to a licensed counselor or a preacher that teaches morality not what you want to hear to justify your actions, or if you have to find a really really old person/couple sitting on a park bench, tell the whole story, not just your sad version, & im sure theyll give you the best advice, break the chain & stay married & see how your kids grow, I guarantee you, if you raise your kids right & in church, your kids will be the best accomplishment you will have ever done, & they will make you so proud, & in turn be proud of their parents for beating the odds.

  10. Karen on August 22nd, 2014 2:05 pm

    I wonder just how proud they are going to be when they stand before our Heavenly Father and tell him how wrong he is.

  11. No Excuses on August 22nd, 2014 1:25 pm

    Just to throw this out there – those of you who are federal employees know what I am talking about – Domestic partners were allowed to get Long Term Federal Health Insurance (it had been YEARS since we had an open season to add our opposite sex spouses if we so desired) BEFORE everyone else was allowed to do so with an open season to add eligible family members. I wanted to sign up for it myself, but had to wait until the homosexuals were taken care of. So, don’t tell me homosexuals are always discriminated against. It’s simply not true.

    I agree with the other poster – the Government doesn’t need to give anybody any special considerations, except for perhaps head of household. Married, unmarried, gay, straight, etc. it shouldn’t matter. Butt out big govt.

  12. Jack Johnson on August 22nd, 2014 12:52 pm

    .       Burning any yeast or honey in offerings to God (2:11)

    2.       Failing to include salt in offerings to God (2:13)

    3.       Eating fat (3:17)

    4.       Eating blood (3:17)

    5.       Failing to testify against any wrongdoing you’ve witnessed (5:1)

    6.       Failing to testify against any wrongdoing you’ve been told about (5:1)

    7.       Touching an unclean animal (5:2)

    8.       Carelessly making an oath (5:4)

    9.       Deceiving a neighbour about something trusted to them (6:2)

    10.   Finding lost property and lying about it (6:3)

    11.   Bringing unauthorised fire before God (10:1)

    12.   Letting your hair become unkempt (10:6)

    13.   Tearing your clothes (10:6)

    14.   Drinking alcohol in holy places (bit of a problem for Catholics, this ‘un) (10:9)

    ‘m a straight republican Christian. Good for them! The world needs more love and commitment. The ones that scream about the Bible need to read ALL of laviticus.
    Most of them pick and choose what works for them and not God.

  13. Rufus Lowgun on August 22nd, 2014 12:47 pm

    This wouldn’t even be an issue if heterosexuals would stop having all those gay kids.

  14. Paul on August 22nd, 2014 12:02 pm

    Under the law they should be allowed to marry, It is a legal institution affording legal rights, It allow a partner to make funeral and medical decisions also. Don’t confuse religion and state.

  15. BOGIAN on August 22nd, 2014 10:34 am

    Well, I didn’t get married for tax benefits, but I’m glad to have them. If homosexuals have a relationship that, but for their gender, would lead to marriage and perks from the government, I say let them have it.

    Totally agree about those that want to keep the government out of their business and then demanding that the government get in the business of others. Pretty silly if you ask me.

  16. Ben Thar on August 22nd, 2014 10:07 am


    The majority of kids are already growing up with two dads, two moms, stepmoms, stepbrothers, stepsisters, the dude my mom is dating this week, and the unexplained strangers who just seem to come into and out of their lives.

  17. BT on August 22nd, 2014 9:48 am

    You seriously got married for tax benefits?

    I have met a number of gay couples over the years. Some couples are great together, some aren’t. Some are capable of raising well-adjusted children, some aren’t. Kinda like straight people. Many are normal, productive folks in committed relationships that put straight couples to shame.

    It’s hard to see folks argue for smaller government on one hand, then desire to have government impose their belief system on others.

  18. Dudley Herrington on August 22nd, 2014 9:17 am

    What is the name of the Judge ? He is the one who should be in the news, and maybe in jail !!!!

  19. BOGIAN on August 22nd, 2014 7:54 am

    Homosexuals and non religious folks want some of that sweet, delicious marriage because the government gives so many benefits based on marital status. I care nothing for church, but I sure love me some positive tax benefits.

  20. Frank on August 22nd, 2014 7:50 am

    If this is ok, why they can the law prohibit Me from having 10 wives?

    Folks there has to be a standard, and if you remove that standard????

  21. southerner on August 22nd, 2014 7:44 am

    Same sex “marraige” is unnatural, ungodly, and unhealthy.

  22. The DOER on August 22nd, 2014 6:01 am

    This article is about the judge’s violation of the 14th and 10th Amendments. The lawyer had to do some extensive judge-shopping to find this whacko judge. What is amazing to me is the attitude among some of the so-called Christian posts.

    The Bible calls homosexuals “Sodomites.” This word carries the implication of judgment with it, for God destroyed Sodom for their wickedness, which included homosexuality (Genesis 19:1-13). Thus, it should not come as a surprise that all modern corruptions of the Bible have completely removed the word “sodomite” from the Scriptures. This is evil (Romans 1:25).
    Sadly many Christians support Same Sex Marriages either by openly supporting this travesty or remaining silent and refusing to get involved. Silence means approval in this case. You cannot call yourself a Christian and be a supporter of Same Sex Marriages. It is against the word of God to support any homosexual agenda. The Bible says it is sin period.

    Leviticus 18:22. “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.”

    Leviticus 20:13. “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”

    For the sake or argument, leave the Bible out of it. Use Lisa’s claims as your basis. If you want to have sex in a physical way that your body was not designed for, be ready to reap the consequences. Same holds true for having multiple opposite-sex partners (diseases,etc.).

    Since marriage is a religious, spiritual union, why would homosexuals want to bother with it anyway, especially when the Bible has made it so clear that homosexuality is an abomination?

    I’m sure I will now be attacked for being politically incorrect, but I choose to base my beliefs on God’s word. Everyone sins. It is our reactions to evil thoughts or desires that separate us from others. (Just because I’m so mad that I want to hit somebody does not mean that I should do it. It’s called control.)

  23. Mike on August 22nd, 2014 4:58 am

    I’ve been married for 30 years to my wife. We have no children; our jobs came first. Does this mean our marriage is invalid, or immoral? I think not! People against gay marriage just don’t get it! They hate what they fear, and they fear what they don’t understand.

  24. Lisa on August 22nd, 2014 4:51 am

    It is naturally impossible, for 2 people of the same sex to have kids, period, people like that can not teach & raise those kids morally. Is it gonna make it acceptable by saying I have 2 mommies or 2 daddies, no they’re just gonna grow up confused the best way is for people to straighten up & live like God intended for us to live, then they’ll have a true mommy & daddy without messing a kids life up, & think about how a normal kid thinks & then compare a child that lives in that society. God didn’t create Adam & Steve, Or 2 women, no he created Adam & Eve, our country is going down even further.

  25. Oz Marino on August 22nd, 2014 3:27 am

    I don’t think any Bible study person realizes that marriage in the eyes of God is when one person has sex with another. It is written that if a man has sex with a prostitute he becomes her husband. It is also written that Jesus is considered a woman to be married to several husbands when he encountered her. Regardless of what anybody has to say about marriage, biblically when a man joins another man in a sexual relationship they are technically married in the eyes of God. Wether for the good or for the bad it’s another judgment. In fact, when Jesus knew about this lady who had married several husbands, he did not out right condemn her. God is gracious and God is kind. Have mercy on others and know that only God can change a person.

  26. Don_in_Odessa on August 22nd, 2014 3:26 am

    “The lawsuit accuses the Florida prohibition on same-sex marriage of allowing disparate treatment, including in benefits extended to couples such as retirement plans and health insurance. ”

    This is dubious reason. There should be no monetary benefit conferred by government or employment for one’s marital state. It discriminates against the unmarried. Neither should there be any government position at all on marriage. It is not the business of government. If two people wish to have a contractual agreement between them then let them sign a contract just like any other type of partnership. There need be no distinction.

    As for marriage, it is a spiritual union. If two people wish to be married let them say so, in their Church or any other type of gathering they wish to have as a witness to their union. It’s time for the nanny state to let go of it’s control of these kinds of matters.

  27. Dorcia Parham on August 22nd, 2014 3:22 am

    People have a right to be who they really are , live who they really are as long as they DO NOT HURT OTHERS. Obviously humans ARE more complex and of more diversity of nature than many can understand. Though I absolutely prefer only someone of the opposite of myself … I will extend understanding to those who prefer the same as themselves.

Have a comment on this story?

We welcome your comments on this story, but there are some rules to follow::

(1) Be Nice. No comments that slander another, no racism, no sexism, no personal attacks.

(2) No Harrassing Comments. If someone says something bad about you, don't respond. That's childish.

(3) No Libel. That's saying something is not true about someone. Don't do it.

(4) Keep it clean. Nothing vulgar, obscene or sexually related. No profanity or obvious substitutions. Period.

(5) NorthEscambia.com reserves the right to remove any comments that violate our rules or we think to be inappropriate. We are not responsible for what is posted. Comments may not appear right away until they are approved by a moderator.

(6) Limit your comments to the subject in this story only, and limit comments to 300 words or less. Do not post copyrighted material. Comments will not be added to stories that are over 30 days old.

(7) No posts may advertise a commercial business or political group, or link to another commercial web site or political site of any kind.