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Florida Government’s Legal Bill For Fighting Same-Sex Marriage: $500,000

| June 2, 2016

same sex marriage legal costs

Michele Villa and Dawn Wilcox , along with their grandson Ethan, just after obtaining their marriage license in January 2015 at the Flagler County Courthouse. (© FlaglerLive)

Florida taxpayers are on the hook for almost $500,000 in fees to lawyers who successfully challenged the state’s prohibition against same-sex marriage.


Attorney General Pam Bondi, who initially balked at paying the legal fees, has agreed to pay $280,000 to Jacksonville lawyers William Sheppard, Betsy White and Sam Jacobson, who represented two same-sex couples, according to documents filed in federal court on Wednesday.

Bondi’s office last month agreed to pay $213,000 to the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, which represented eight same-sex couples who were married in other states.

The settlements came after U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle ruled in April that the lawyers in the consolidated cases were entitled to the fees, and nearly two years after Hinkle first ruled that Florida’s voter-approved same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional.

Hinkle put a stay on his August 2014 constitutional decision until January 2015, when same-sex marriages began in Florida.

A battle over the legal fees began last summer, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have a fundamental right to marry. The Supreme Court ruling came in a case involving other states, but it cemented Hinkle’s ruling that Florida’s ban was unconstitutional.

In August, Bondi asked the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta and Hinkle to dismiss the Florida case as moot. A dismissal would have absolved the state from an obligation to pay the plaintiffs’ lawyers, Sheppard and his team wrote in a court filing last year.

The settlement with Sheppard, White and Jacobson is the final chapter in Florida’s same-sex lawsuit, White said in a telephone interview Thursday.

“The book is closed on this lawsuit. What the future is going to hold, none of us know,” she said. “You get politicians that enact laws without concern with whether or not they’re constitutional, so we can’t ever predict what those guys are going to do.”

While the same-sex marriage case appears to be resolved, plaintiffs are refusing to drop another lawsuit involving birth certificates issued to children of same-sex couples.

The Florida Department of Health this month asked Hinkle to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that it was moot because the state has started listing both spouses on birth certificates of children born into same-sex marriages and has started a rule-making process to “allow the designation of mother, father, or parent on the birth record.”

But, on Tuesday, the plaintiffs in the case — two same-sex couples and an advocacy group — objected to the Department of Health’s request, asking Hinkle to grant summary judgment in their favor and issue a permanent injunction against the state.

–Dara Kam, News Service of Florida

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8 Responses for “Florida Government’s Legal Bill For Fighting Same-Sex Marriage: $500,000”

  1. Donald Trump's Tiny Fingers says:

    That’s right florida- keep being regressive instead of progressive. This should come right out bondi’s savings account.

  2. BeachcomberT says:

    Bondi should have recognized the US Supreme Court’s rulings in 2 same-sex marriage cases doomed Florida’s anti-gay constitutional amendment. Attorneys general in several other states declined to wage a futile fight, but Bondi thought winning brownie points from conservative advocacy groups was more important than respecting the rights of GLBT Floridians.

  3. DaveT says:

    I guess you fight for what you believe is right.

  4. Donald Trump's Tiny Fingers says:

    As elected officials, they should be fighting for what the people want and not what special interest groups want.

  5. Outsider says:

    In case you haven’t noticed, the courts have been defying the will of the people for years. California’s gay marriage ban, which was passed by a majority of the voters, was overturned by yet another court ruling. The legislatures in this country, who are elected by the people to represent the people, are being nullified by the liberal courts. This is not isolated to the gay marriage issue. Courts in Florida have nullified the immunity from arrest and prosecution portions of the so-called stand your ground law. Whereas the legislature specifically barred an individual who used deadly force legally from being arrested, the courts implemented an immunity hearing process, which directly contradicted what the legislature mandated. The legislatures, including the U.S. Congress, are being transformed into irrelevant institutions, with the courts, consisting of mostly un-elected judges, creating laws contrary to the wishes of the people.

  6. proud yankee says:

    its a shame this doesnt come direct from Bondi. Had no chance of winning. What a huge waste of money.

  7. Sherry says:

    I don’t want our leaders to fight for what THEY personally think is right. . . they are elected to “intelligently” keep on top of the issues and act accordingly. They are elected to represent ALL their constituents!

  8. Sherry says:

    @ outsider.. . Pew polls say 55% ARE in favor of same sex marriage. . . so the courts have ruled according to the majority. It’s our government leaders in Florida who are out of the main stream!

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