KEY WEST, Fla. - A judge in the Florida Keys has overturned the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
The ruling was issued Thursday by Monroe County Judge Luis M. Garcia. It applies only to Monroe County, which includes the Keys.
Earlier this month attorneys for Key West bartenders Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones argued in court that the state's same-sex marriage ban approved by voters in 2008 violated the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal protection under the law.
"He and I love each other," Huntman told Local 10 News earlier this month. "We've been together for many years. We want to be treated like everybody else."
Jones added it was terrifying that the ruling could set a precedent, "which we hope it does."
"All laws passed, whether by legislature or by popular support, must pass the scrutiny of the United States Constitution," Garcia concluded in his ruling.
Huntsman and Jones celebrated Garcia's ruling with about 100 others Thursday night at a Key West nightclub.
"Finally, the civil rights are coming down for all," Huntsman told Local 10.
The ruling orders county clerk Amy Heavilin to "issue marriage licenses to the plaintiffs and similarly situated same-sex couples, subject to the same restrictions and limitations applicable to opposite-sex couples under Florida law" as early as Tuesday.
"It's the Keys," attorney Bernadette Revisto, who represents the couple, told Local 10. "It's why I said all along this decision's going to come first out of the Keys. We're the most tolerant, accepting (and) diverse."
Florida's amendment defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
Attorney General Pam Bondi has argued that the referendum vote should be respected and that Florida has sole authority to define marriage in the state.
Bondi quickly filed an appeal of the ruling.
"With many similar cases pending throughout the entire country, finality on this constitutional issue must come from the U.S. Supreme Court," Jenn Meale, a spokeswoman for Bondi's office, said in a statement to the media.
Huntsman, Jones and other gay couples throughout Florida recognize they won the battle, but they may not have won the war.
"We're not going to stop until everybody's equal," Jones said.
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