It’s no longer a maybe, an if or a pending: clerks of court in Florida must begin issuing gay-marriage licenses on Jan. 6 as the U.S. Supreme Court Friday evening denied Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s request that a stay on the matter be extended.
The August 21 federal court ruling by U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle striking down the marriage ban was the result of two cases — one brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida on behalf of eight couples, a Fort Myers widow, and SAVE, South Florida’s largest LGBT rights organization; the other by Jacksonville attorneys William Sheppard and Sam Jacobson on behalf of two couples. A temporary stay was placed on that ruling.
On November 5th, Judge Hinkle issued an order stating that the stay would be lifted at the end of the day on Jan. 5. The state asked the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, where the appeal of the decision is pending, to extend the stay for the duration of the appeal. When the 11th Circuit denied that request, Florida’s attorney general filed an application for a stay extension at the U.S. Supreme Court.
“The application for stay presented to Justice [Clarence] Thomas and by him referred to the Court is denied,” the high court’s order read. “Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas would grant the application.” (Thomas and Scalia are among the court’s justices who oppose gay marriage.)
“Tonight,” Bondi said in a statement, “the United States Supreme Court denied the State’s request for a stay in the case before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. Regardless of the ruling, it has always been our goal to have uniformity throughout Florida until the final resolution of the numerous challenges to the voter-approved constitutional amendment on marriage. Nonetheless, the Supreme Court has now spoken, and the stay will end on Jan. 5.” Bondi and Gov. Rick Scott oppose marriage equality, citing Florida’s same-sex marriage ban, which was reinforced by 62 percent of voters in a 2008 referendum, though the ban was already on Florida’s statutory books.
Marriage equality advocates celebrated Friday.
“This is a thrilling day for all Florida families. As we explained to the Court, every day that the ban remains in place, couples are suffering real harms. We are grateful that the Court recognized that, and that as a result, those days are finally coming to an end,” ACLU of Florida LGBT rights staff attorney Daniel Tilley said. “Now that the last-ditch efforts of Governor Scott and Pam Bondi to delay implementation of Judge Hinkle’s ruling have failed, we turn our focus to marriage equality coming to Florida. The nation’s highest court has now given its blessing to marriage going forward in Florida. Those who were waiting for the Supreme Court to weigh in have gotten exactly what they asked for. We expect public officials in all of Florida’s 67 counties to understand the significance of this development and look forward to full implementation of Judge Hinkle’s decision across our state.”
“We are thrilled the U.S. Supreme Court has denied the State’s request to delay marriages in Florida,” said Nadine Smith, CEO of Equality Florida, the state’s largest advocacy organization for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Floridians. “Every day of delay is another day of harm experienced by thousands of loving and committed same-sex couples in Florida. It’s time to break out the wedding bells! We look forward to January 6th being a special day — Florida is ready for the freedom to marry.”
Despite the Supreme Court’s order, which would appear top leave no room for ambiguity, there is still some question as to whether every clerk of court in the state’s 67 counties will comply with the ruling. ” The law firm representing the clerks’ association has warned them they could be in violation of Florida law if they issue same-sex marriage licenses before the U.S. Supreme Court settles the issue,” the Miami Herald reports.