Gay Marriage Ban Ruled Unconstitutional; Local Couple Hopeful

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LYNN HAVEN - Another judge has declared Florida's constitutional ban on gay marriage unconstitutional. This time it's at the federal level. Federal Judge Robert L. Hinkle declared Florida Constitutional Amendment illegal late this afternoon in Tallahassee Federal Court.

Locally gay rights advocates are encouraged by the ruling. It gives new hope to same sex couples who've tried to marry in Florida in the past.

Many local couple same sex couples have left Florida, traveling to other states to get married, because Florida refusing to recognize any union other than those between a man and a woman.

However, even those who get married elsewhere, and return home, don't enjoy the same rights as other Florida couples, again, because the state does not view them as being legally married.

They're hoping these recent rulings will finally bring an end to the state's constitutional ban against gay marriages, and allow them to live here with the same legal rights as other couples.

Local same sex couple David Arnitt and Auston Conrad say the decision gives them hope. Arnitt explains, "We want to stay here. We want our dollars to be pushed back into this economy. I love Florida. I love Panama City..." Conrad adds, "It's just something that's holding us back. So we've talked about it, but I've always said until it becomes legal in Florida, I just want to hold off. "

Don't expect to see a rush of same sex couples, heading to Bay County court houses to get marriage licenses. This legal battle still has a long way to go. The Supreme Court is expected to take up the issue in its coming term.