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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 12 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 37
One Florida judge vacates marriage order
Section One
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One Florida judge vacates marriage order

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

One of the Florida state judges who ruled in August that the state's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional has vacated his previous ruling.

Broward County judge Dale Cohen cancelled a hearing set for September 10, at which he was planning to finalize the divorce of Heather Brassner from her wife, Megan Lade. The couple had a civil union performed in Vermont in 2002.

Cohen did not say he changed his mind about the constitutionality of Florida's marriage laws, but he did say Brassner had failed to comply with all the technicalities of Florida divorce law.

'It has come to this Court's attention that the Petitioner, Heather Brassner, has failed to comply with [state law] by failing to notify the Office of the Attorney General of these proceedings by either registered or certified mail,' Cohen wrote in his order.

'Therefore, this Court vacates its prior ruling declaring Article 1, Section 27 and Florida Statute 741.212 unconstitutional.'

Cohen added that 'the Parties may schedule a rehearing' in the case, meaning that he might well reissue an order striking the same-sex marriage ban.

In his August 4 ruling, Cohen became the third Florida judge to declare Florida's same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional, following judges in Monroe and Miami-Dade counties. Since then, a Palm Beach County judge and a federal district judge also have ruled against the ban, which Florida voters passed in 2008.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, an opponent of same-sex marriage, did not intervene in the Brassner case or appeal Cohen's declaratory judgment against the marriage ban, causing Brassner's attorney, Nancy Brodzki, to declare victory.

Brodzki told reporters she got a call from Cohen's judicial assistant on September 9, after the judge realized the state had not been properly notified, telling her he would have to vacate his previous judgment.

'The judge, being a very thorough judge, obviously was doing all his research prior to tomorrow's ruling and came across a rule of civil procedure as well as the Florida Statute, and recognized that that rule and statute had not been strictly complied with,' Brodzki said.

'He is being scrupulous that he, as the judge, and we, as the petitioners, have dotted every I and crossed every T. He found one and wants to correct it, so that his judgment, when it is entered, is not attacked on procedural grounds.'

Brassner said she is disappointed by the delay, but not angry with Brodzki.

'It was just an oversight,' Brassner said.

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