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Broward Judge Calls Gay Marriage Ban “Unconstitutional”

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FT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – For the third time in less than a month, a judge has struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

The Broward County Circuit Judge ruled Monday that Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

The ruling was the result of a woman’s petition to end 2002 civil union with her partner in Vermont.

For the last four years, Heather Brassner has been trying to end the civil union to Megan Lade. The relationship fell apart when the couple was living in Florida.

Florida courts told Brassner she couldn’t get divorced in Florida since the state doesn’t recognize the Vermont civil union. Getting a divorce in Vermont wasn’t an option since Brassner would have to be a resident of the state in order to end her civil union.

“To hold some couples less worthy than other couples based on sexual orientation, to deny individuals tax credits, marital property rights, and the ability to dissolve unions from other jurisdictions is against all that this country holds dear, as it denies equal citizenship,” said Broward Circuit Court Judge Dale Cohen said Monday. “The state of Florida cannot ignore the status and dignity afforded to opposite sex couples, who are married out of state, and not extend those same rights, dignities and benefits to same sex couples.”

After the brief ruling, Brassner embraced the woman she plans to marry saying she was full of joy.

Click here to WATCH CBS4 MaryAnn Martinez’s report

“I don’t think there’s enough words to describe what I feel right now,” said Brassner. “I’m just hoping that I can put my past behind me and just move forward in my own life as Florida moves forward.”

Today’s ruling by Judge Cohen not only puts Brassner one step closer to ending her crumbled civil union, but also moves Florida closer legalizing same-sex marriage.

“Florida statute 741.212 is unconstitutional as [it] violates the due process and equal protection clauses of the Unites States Constitution,” he said.  “Equality is the cornerstone of our nation. With the pursuit of that ideal comes the often uncomfortable feeling of change. We’ve learned that over time, change becomes a part of what this great nation is all about.”

Florida’s attorney general, Pam Bondi, is currently fighting rulings in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties saying same-sex marriage must be legal in Florida. Bondi says she is enforcing a voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage. When asked about this ruling, her spokeswoman said Bondi would review the ruling.

Brassner says she hasn’t started planning her next wedding yet, but feels more confident than ever that she will walk down the aisle again after state and federal appeals have been exhausted.

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