Same-sex couples and their attorneys in Miami have started to celebrate Circuit Court Judge Sarah Zabel’s decision to lift the legal stay she had placed on her July decision declaring Florida’s gay-marriage ban unconstitutional.
Miami-Dade County became the first place in Florida to allow same-sex couples to marry on Monday, half a day before a gay-marriage ban that has been ruled unconstitutional is lifted in the rest of the state.
Weddings began less than three hours after Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel lifted the legal stay she had placed on her sweeping July decision declaring the ban discriminatory.
Two of the six couples who had sued — Catherina Pareto and Karla Arguello of Coconut Grove, and Jeff and Todd Delmay of Hollywood — were the first to be married, by Zabel herself.
The couples exchanged rings surrounded by family, friends and a pack of television crews at downtown Miami’s historic civil courthouse following Zabel’s 11 a.m. ruling.
“In the big picture, does it really matter whether or not I lift the stay or leave it until tomorrow?” Zabel said from the bench. “I’m lifting the stay.”
As gay couples began to wed after the court ruling, Jeb Bush, the state’s former governor and long time opponent of same-sex marriages, struck a conciliatory note, telling The New York Times that “regardless of our disagreements, we have to respect the rule of law.”
The Times had asked a spokeswoman for Mr. Bush, among other things, if he supported challenging the state judge’s ruling Monday that allowed same-sex couples to start marrying in some parts of Florida.
Mr. Bush’s comments suggested a tepid acceptance of the new legal status, or at least an acknowledgment that there is little he can do to block it.
“We live in a democracy, and regardless of our disagreements, we have to respect the rule of law,” Mr. Bush said in a statement. “I hope that we can show respect for the good people on all sides of the gay and lesbian marriage issue – including couples making lifetime commitments to each other who are seeking greater legal protections and those of us who believe marriage is a sacrament and want to safeguard religious liberty.”
Despite the ruling, couples in other counties will still have to wait until the stay expires at midnight – with further weddings set to take place across the state.
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