On Tuesday, marriage equality became the law throughout Florida, as U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle’s ruling invalidating the state’s gay marriage ban went into effect. Thousands of same-sex couples flocked to courthouses—but those who may have hoped to make history as the first gay couple legally married in Florida went home disappointed. That’s because, just one day before Hinkle’s ruling took effect, Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel permitted same-sex marriages to begin in Miami-Dade County. And for those of us who weren’t lucky enough to be in Miami on Monday, Equality Florida captured the historic first marriages on video.
Like Hinkle, Zabel ruled Florida’s ban to be unconstitutional last summer in a totally separate lawsuit, but she put her judgment on hold to allow appeals. With Hinkle’s stay coming to an end, however, Zabel decided to put her own ruling into effect on Monday afternoon, telling the plaintiffs, “in the big picture, does it really matter whether or not I lift the stay or leave it until tomorrow?” She performed the first two weddings herself, in her own courtroom, marrying several of the plaintiffs who had challenged the ban in her court. These plaintiffs thus became the very first gay couples to legally wed in Florida.
It remains unclear whether Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi will continue to defend the ban—she could appeal to the 11th Circuit—or simply let the misbegotten law rest in peace. And with a group of disgruntled clerks canceling all courthouse weddings just to avoid performing gay ceremonies, many Floridians obviously remain devoted to the cause of legally disadvantaging gay citizens. With so many couples now wed, though, the state’s gay marriage ban appears to be functionally, if not officially, dead in the water.