Equality Florida group celebrates judge's gay marriage ruling

Judge overturns state's ban for Florida Keys

By Ashley Harding - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - After a judge in the Florida Keys overturned the state's ban on gay marriage, same-sex marriage supporters in Jacksonville claimed victory Thursday night.

Thursday's ruling is the first in a number of lawsuits aimed at legalizing gay marriage across the state of Florida. Shortly after the judge ruled, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi filed an immediate notice of appeal to the ruling.

Members and supporters of Equality Florida shared their joy and support Thursday night in Avondale, after the Monroe County judge ruled the gay marriage ban unconstitutional.

Scott Masson and Stephen Prophet, married last year in Connecticut, said Thursday's news gave them hope that more change could come to the state of Florida.

"We're real excited because we had to leave the state to be legally married, and now to think that the doors are open for us to be legally recognized in our state, it's just huge and very exciting," said Masson, a member of Equality Florida.

Channel 4's Ashley Harding spoke on the phone with Dr. Greg Pingree, a constitutional lawyer and professor at Florida Coastal School of Law.

Pingree wasn't surprised by the ruling -- or the immediate appeal by Bondi.

"What would happen in Florida -- I'm quite certain in Florida, because there is strong opposition to this -- there will be appeals and those appeals would almost certainly lead a judge or a panel of judges to say, 'Let's put this on hold. Let's not issue licenses. Let's wait to see what the final word is going to be at the Supreme Court level.'"

While supporters may not know the exact fate of gay marriage in Florida, Thursday they celebrated what they are calling one step in the right direction.

"Once these decisions are made, it doesn't take long for the doors to open to the rest of the state," Masson said. "We know it's going to happen. It's inevitable."

"We're actually looking at, probably within another year or two, for the whole nation to have full equality," said Prophet.

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