BY STEVE ROTHAUS
The Broward judge who last month declared Florida’s gay-marriage ban unconstitutional vacated his own order on Tuesday, after learning the lawyer for a woman seeking a same-sex divorce had not properly notified the state when the case began.
“It has come to this Court’s attention that the Petitioner, Heather Brassner, has failed to comply with [state law] by failing to notice the Office of the Attorney General of these proceedings by either registered or certified mail,” Broward Circuit Judge Dale Cohen wrote in his order. “Therefore, this Court vacates its prior ruling declaring Article 1, section 27 and Florida Statute 741.212 unconstitutional.”
Cohen canceled a hearing set for Wednesday afternoon at the Broward Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale to finalize the dissolution of Brassner’s 2002 Vermont civil union with ex-partner Megan Lade, and wrote that “the Parties may schedule a rehearing” in the case.
Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office said Tuesday it had not been in touch with the judge and “will continue to monitor the case,” said spokeswoman Jennifer Meale.
On Aug. 4, Cohen became the third South Florida judge in 18 days to declare Florida’s gay marriage ban unconstitutional, following judges in Monroe and Miami-Dade counties. Since then, a Palm Beach County and a federal judge in Tallahassee also have ruled against the ban, which Florida voters passed in 2008.
Bondi’s office did not intervene in the Brassner case or appeal Cohen’s declaratory judgment against the marriage ban.
Thirty days after Cohen ruled, Brassner’s attorney, Nancy Brodzki, declared victory and expected Brassner’s divorce to become final on Sept. 10. She and other LGBT activists hoped the ruling would pave the way to gay marriage in Broward.
Brodzki said Tuesday she got a call from Cohen’s judicial assistant, after the judge realized the state had not been properly notified.
“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,” said Brodzki, a Coral Springs divorce lawyer. “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, a Lake Worth art dealer, said she is disappointed by the delay, but not angry with Brodzki. “It was just an oversight,” Brassner said.