For the third time in as many weeks, a Florida state judge has ruled against the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, this time in Broward County. Circuit Judge Dale Cohen’s ruling differs from the other two in that it grants recognition of marriages performed in other states, but like the others it also overturns the ban. Cohen stayed the decision pending appeal.
Plaintiff Heather Brassner entered into a civil union in Vermont in 2002, but has since separated from her former partner, Megan Lade. Brassner now lives in Florida and is asking the state to dissolve the union so that she can marry her current partner (which would still have to take place in another state for now). Vermont would end it, but only if both women sign papers agreeing to its end, which is impossible because Lade has disappeared — even a private investigator could not find her. Between Lade’s disappearance and Florida’s ban, which prohibits not only marriage but also any “substantial equivalent thereof” like civil unions, Brassner has been stuck in legal-relationship limbo.
Brassner had originally only filed for divorce, but Cohen didn’t want to rule on her divorce without weighing the impact of the ban. He specifically asked Brassner’s lawyer, Nancy Brodzki, to file a motion for declaratory judgment against the ban so he could rule on it directly. In his decision, he noted that Florida’s refusal to recognize her union “is tantamount to banning her from marrying someone of the same sex.”
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has already appealed the two prior rulings from Monroe and Miami-Dade counties, which might be combined moving forward. She is expected to appeal in this case as well. Several other challenges have been filed throughout the state that have not yet advanced.
Equality Florida notes that all three rulings have been handed down by Republican-appointed judges.