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Finally, Equal Rights: Gays Can Marry in Florida

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U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle ruled Thursday that an injunction he had issued should be lifted, confirming an earlier decision that gays have a constitutional right to marry in Miami-Dade County.

"The Constitution requires the Clerk to issue [marriage] licenses," he wrote.

Florida's conservative attorney general, Pam Bondi, who had strenuously opposed the order, surrendered. "We are glad the court has issued additional guidance," her office wrote in a news release. "My office will not stand in the way as Clerks decide how to proceed."

It is still unclear how the rest of the state will proceed. It's likely that marriage licenses will be issued in South Florida counties such as Broward and Palm Beach. Tiny Washington County is also likely a go, but some counties in more conservative parts of the state may await a decision by a federal court in the original case, which sought to overturn Florida's constitutional ban on gay marriage.

Floridians had voted just a few years ago to amend the state constitution to outlaw gay marriage. More than 60 percent of state residents had cast their ballots for the ban.

Next Tuesday, when the order takes effect, Florida will become the 36th state to issue marriage licenses.

The decision was hailed across Florida as a major victory for equal rights. "We look forward to Jan. 6, when couples who have waited for this day can finally be married," said Equality Florida, a Tampa-based gay advocacy group.

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