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Judge strikes Florida's same-sex marriage ban -- though no weddings yet

By Greg Botelho, CNN
updated 8:18 PM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
April Dawn Breeden, left, and longtime partner Crystal Peairs are married by the Rev. Katie Hotze-Wilton at St. Louis City Hall on Wednesday, November 5. A Missouri judge on November 5 overturned the state's ban on same-sex marriages and ordered registrars to start issuing licenses to gay and lesbian couples. More than 30 states and the District of Columbia allow marriage for same-sex couples. April Dawn Breeden, left, and longtime partner Crystal Peairs are married by the Rev. Katie Hotze-Wilton at St. Louis City Hall on Wednesday, November 5. A Missouri judge on November 5 overturned the state's ban on same-sex marriages and ordered registrars to start issuing licenses to gay and lesbian couples. More than 30 states and the District of Columbia allow marriage for same-sex couples.
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Same-sex marriage in the U.S.
Same-sex marriage in the U.S.
Same-sex marriage in the U.S.
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Same-sex marriage in the U.S.
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Same-sex marriage in the U.S.
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Gov. Rick Scott for "traditional marriage" in line with voter-backed amendment
  • A federal judge says Florida's same-sex marriage bans violates U.S. Constitution
  • 19 federal courts have weighed in on this matter and reached the same conclusion
  • Judge stays his own order, meaning gays and lesbians can't marry right away

(CNN) -- Gay and lesbian rights advocates continued their undefeated run Thursday when a federal judge ruled Florida's same-sex marriage ban to be unconstitutional -- though he didn't go so far to allow such marriages as to take place right away.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle noted in his ruling that his is now one of 19 federal courts that have struck down state laws that bar gay and lesbian couples from marrying. While most of the time those decisions were put on hold as appeals work their way through the system, they have all reached the conclusion.

Like those other judges, Hinkle said the Florida ban -- first put into law in 1977 and written into the state's constitution after a 2008 referendum -- violates the "due process" and "equal protection" provisions in the U.S. Constitution.

His ruling applies both to whether same-sex couples can marry in Florida as well as to whether such marriages elsewhere should be recognized in the Sunshine State.

"The Florida provisions that prohibit the recognition of same-sex marriages lawfully entered elsewhere, like the federal provision, are unconstitutional," Hinkle writes. "So is the Florida ban on entering same-sex marriages."

Yet his decision, while firmly in support of allowing same-sex marriage, won't take effect immediately.

Hinkle's reasoning: It doesn't make sense to open up and allow such unions, only to have higher courts later reverse his decision and leaving some couples potentially in legal limbo.

Judges hear four states defend same-sex marriage bans

Earlier this summer, state Circuit Court Judge Sarah Zabel wrote a similar ruling, based on a similar rationale. She, too, immediately stayed her own order "pending the outcome of the expected appeal."

For all their celebrations Thursday, the fact that none of these rulings have taken effect, in full, is high on the minds of LGBT rights activists and groups.

One of them, Equality Florida, called on state leaders to stand with them as the issue continues to move through the courts.

"Florida put this discriminatory ban in place, and Florida should end it," the group said on its website. "Our families have waited too long already."

The state's top elected official, Gov. Rick Scott, has a different opinion.

His re-election campaign spokesman Greg Blair said Thursday that while Scott "respects the many views Floridians have on this issue, he believes in traditional marriage consistent with the constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2008."

"There are several cases going through the court system," Blair added, "and the governor respects that process."

Fast Facts: Same-sex marriage

CNN's John Couwels contributed to this report.

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