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By Rene Stutzman, Orlando Sentinel

In a ground-breaking move, the Florida Supreme Court agreed Wednesday to take on the issue of gay marriage.

The justices announced that they will decide whether the state’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional.

The case involves two Tampa women – Mariama Shaw and Keiba Shaw — who want a divorce. A judge in Hillsborough County had rejected their request, saying their marriage in Massachusetts is not valid in Florida.

They then appealed. Ten judges on the Second District Court of Appeal agreed not to decide the case, saying it was an issue of such importance, it should go directly to the Florida Supreme Court.

“Resolution of the constitutional questions will no doubt impact far more individuals than the two involved here,” the Second District Court wrote. “And there can be little doubt that until the constitutional questions are finally resolved by the Florida Supreme Court or the United States Supreme Court, there will be a great impact on the proper administration of justice in Florida.”

Same-sex couples have won limited back-to-back-to-back victories in state courts in four South Florida counties in the past few weeks.

In each, a judge has struck down Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage, but none of those rulings applies statewide.

Since those victories started rolling in, gay rights activists have pressed to get a case in front of the Florida Supreme Court, hoping to get a decision that would apply to state courts in all of Florida’s 67 counties.

That happened Wednesday.

Last week, a judge in the federal court system, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle in Tallahassee, also found Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. His ruling would apply to every Florida county, but he imposed a stay, prohibiting its implementation until other appeal courts have weighed in.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

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