Now that Florida has become the 36th state to allow same-sex couples to marry, more than 70 percent of Americans live in jurisdictions that permit such unions. What’s made this possible is a string of supportive federal court rulings following the Supreme Court’s pivotal 2013 decision striking down provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act — the 1996 federal law that denied federal benefits to lawfully married same-sex couples.
Judge Robert Hinkle of Federal District Court in Tallahassee cleared the way for the Florida breakthrough with a New Year’s Day clarification of an earlier ruling in August in which he declared the state’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional. The clarification said that clerks in all 67 Florida counties were required to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
The first Florida county to allow same-sex weddings was Miami-Dade, where a state judge, Sarah Zabel, lifted her own temporary injunction, and, fittingly enough, proceeded to officially marry two of the six couples who had sued the county over the marriage ban. The rest of the state began legalizing same-sex marriages just after midnight on Tuesday. All clerk offices agreed to comply with Judge Hinkle’s order, although, disappointingly, some said they would stop performing marriages altogether so that staff members who objected to same-sex unions would not have to officiate them — an infuriating but probably not unconstitutional act of defiance.