A Miami-Dade judge has struck down Florida's gay marriage ban, becoming the second Florida judge in a week to find it unconstitutional.
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel found that the state's ban, approved by a referendum in 2008, "offends basic human dignity" and violates the 14th Amendment's guarantee of equal protection under the law.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi filed a notice of appeal of the ruling within an hour of the ruling being issued.
“Preventing couples from marrying solely on the basis of their sexual orientation serves no governmental interest,” Judge Zabel wrote in her order. “It serves only to hurt, to discriminate, to deprive same-sex 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.”
Florida originally enshrined a ban on same-sex marriage in the state constitution in 2008. Voters approved an amendment that year banning same-sex marriage. Since then, the Supreme Court has overturned the Defense of Marriage Act at a national level and lower-level courts have repeatedly overturned state laws as appeals over state bans moves towards the U.S. Supreme Court.
“At its heart, this case is about the right to marry the person of one’s choice. It is about whether the right to marry can be denied to members of a particular group based upon their sexual orientation, and whether couples and families who have members that fall into that group are entitled to the respect, benefits, and protections which marriage brings,” Judge Zabel wrote.
Zabel put an immediate stay on her order pending the outcome of the expected appeals to be filed by the state of Florida.
Judge Zabel’s order came in a motion for summary judgment in the case Catherina Pareto, et al vs. Harvey Ruvin, and the State of Florida. The summary judgment was granted, giving the plaintiffs an immediate victory.
Pareto and Karla Arguello were one of five gay couples who sued in Miami to overturn Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage. The couples claimed the ban on same-sex marriage violated the equal protection and due process clause, which Judge Zabel agreed with.
Aguello and Pareto didn't know the decision was coming down on Friday.
"We got a text, 'congratulations,' from one of our friends, and we're like, 'congratulations for what? What? What happened? Did we miss something?" Aguello told NBC 6.
"While it was hard to wait for it, it was well worth the wait," Pareto said.
Judge Zabel's ruling also said that Article I, Section 27 of Florida’s Constitution is “void and unenforceable.” She also declared the Florida Statutes that prohibit the issuance of marriage licenses “unless one party is a male and the other party is a female is similarly void and unenforceable.”
The ruling also said that the Clerk of Courts should not be prosecuted for complying with the order and that the Clerk of Courts should modify marriage licenses to conform to the ruling.
"We're just like any other couple out there that wants to protect one another," Karla Aguello said.
The ruling from the Miami-Dade Court would apply only in Miami-Dade County. It comes just a week after Monroe County Circuit Judge Luis Garcia ruled that Florida’s same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional.
Judge Garcia’s order was immediately stayed when Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi filed a notice of appeal. Garcia later declined to lift the stay while the case is on appeal.
Stay with NBC6.com for updates on this developing story.