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Florida: Recognition of same-sex marriages (SSMs)

Part 13: 2014-NOV to early DEC:
District Court stay to expire JAN-05.
State cancels couple's driver's licenses.

Liberty Counsel filed brief in state court.
11th U.S. Circuit Court refuses to extend stay.

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This topic is a continuation from the previous essay

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2014-NOV-05: District Court Judge Hinkle denied the request by the Attorney General to extend the stay:

Faced with conflicting requests:

  • From supporters of marriage equality that he immediately lift the stay that he imposed on his ruling in August so that same-sex couples could obtain marriage licenses starting in November and subsequently marry.

  • From Attorney General Pam Bondi that he let the stay continue until the U.S. 11th Circuit Court eventually renders its ruling at some unknown time in the future,

Judge Hinkle took an intermediate course.

He refused to lift his stay. He wrote that if he did end the stay so that loving, committed same-sex couples could marry:

"This would leave the 11th Circuit insufficient time to make a considered judgment on whether the stay should remain in place and thus would be inconsistent with the public interest in implementing just once the constitutional decision on same-sex marriage in Florida."

In many other states, federal and state judges had not issued a stay of their ruling, there had been a mad rush by same-sex couples to obtain marriage licenses, and many couples were married. That left their marriages in a uncertain legal status. They risked being forcibly divorced later against their will as a result of subsequent court decision(s).

However, Judge Hinkle also refused to grant Attorney General Bondi's request that he leave the stay in place until the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals renders its verdict. CBS Miami commented that Judge:

"Hinkle also denied Bondi’s request to leave the stay in place as long as the 11th Circuit is considering Florida’s appeal, setting instead the January [05] deadline. The judge said that would mean unnecessary delay, especially considering 'the unbroken line of circuit [courts of appeals'] decisions striking down bans on same-sex marriage'.

'No circuit that has decided the same-sex marriage issue on the merits has stayed its ruling,' the judge added." 6

This left open the possibility that same-sex couples might be able to apply for marriage licenses on Tuesday, 2015-JAN-06.

In Florida, there is a three-day waiting interval after a couple obtains their marriage license before they can marry. This interval is waived if the couple are Florida residents and have attended an eight-hour marriage course. The fee is also lowered for those who have taken the course. 7

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Week of 2014-NOV-23: Florida reaches a new low in pettiness: State cancels same-sex couple's driver's licenses:

A same-sex couple formerly called Daniel DeSousa and Scott Wall married in New York State during 2013. They legally changed their last name to Wall-DeSousa through the federal Social Security Administration. Daniel Wall-DeSousa was able to have his local Department of Motor Vehicles change his name on his Florida driver's licence. Scot Wall-DeSousa was refused by the first county office that he visited, but was ultimately successful in a second county office. They were interviewed on an Orlando TV station about their problems changing names. Shortly afterwards, they received a letter from the DMV informing them that the state had cancelled both of their licenses.

They filed a lawsuit in late November citing the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles as defendant. They base their case on the usual grounds: the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and their right to free speech. On the latter item, their complaint charges that the Department is:

"... trying to suppress the expression that the plaintiffs, as a same-sex couple, are a family." 5

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2014-NOV-28: In state court: Liberty Counsel filed a brief with Florida's Third District Court of Appeals:

Referring to Florida and Georgia, the American Family Association, through its conservative Christian news source One News Now, said:

"Despite overwhelming support in both Bible Belt states for traditional marriage, attorneys with Liberty Counsel are frustrated that a few judges’ opinions on the matter will take precedence over those from millions of citizens."

Liberty Counsel is an evangelical Christian legal defense group that is extensively involved in protecting state' bans on marriage equality, and protecting retail companies' religiously motivated desire to discriminate against same-sex couples in the provision of marriage goods and services.

In Florida, the group of "millions of citizens" to which they referred are the Floridian voters who passed "Florida Marriage Protection Amendment" to the Florida constitution in 2008. It banned marriage equality throughout the state.

Attorneys with Liberty Counsel wrote in their "friend of the court" brief:

"At issue is whether the democratic vote of 5 million Floridians defining marriage as between one man and one woman will be respected, or whether marriage will be redefined by the court as between an undefined group of people who are ‘committed’ to each other based upon an ‘emotional bond’." 1

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Webmaster's opinions about the Liberty Counsel brief:

There appear to actually be two issues involved:

  • Whether the U.S. is a pure democracy where the vote of the people rules, or is a Constitutional democracy in which the federal Constitution is the highest law of the land. There is a consensus among constitutional experts that the latter is correct. More details.

  • Whether the Due Process and Equal Protection phrases of the 14th Amendment of the federal Constitution require states to give both same-sex and opposite-sex couples equal access to marriage. Since mid-2013, dozens of judges in state and U.S. District Courts, as well as three U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals have determined that the phrases do require marriage equality.

In the brief that Liberty Counsel filed, they quoted the ruling by a three judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the case DeBoer v. Snyder. That panel voted 2 to 1 in favor of the same-sex marriage bans in four states being constitutional. The four states are: Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee. So far, it is the only District Court to do so. Three others, the 4th, 9th, and 10 Circuit Courts have found essentially identical state bans to be unconstitutional.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' decision stated:

"Of all the ways to resolve this question, one option is not available: a poll of the three judges on this panel, or for that matter all federal judges, about whether gay marriage is a good idea. Our judicial commissions did not come with such a sweeping grant of authority, one that would allow just three of us — just two of us in truth — to make such a vital policy call."

Readers of the One News Now article 5 responded with 17 comments: 16 of them favored marriage equality. One News Now should be commended allowing so much condemnation of the marriage equality ban to appear on their web site -- a ban that the news outlet strongly supports.

The only dissenting posting was by Martin Rizley. He eloquently wrote what he believes is at stake in Florida over marriage equality:

"Millions of Americans are still blind to the fact that the rewriting of marriage laws by federal justices has nothing to do with securing 'equal rights' for anyone-- although that is the lie they will feed you, if you are willing to swallow it. The fact is, all Americans already enjoy equal rights, which does not include the 'right' of any citizen or any special interest group to redefine marriage for the whole country (or for a whole state, for that matter, against the will of the majority). This is about two things:

1) Government creation of 'special rights' for practitioners of one-- and only one, -- sexually deviant lifestyle -- homosexuality. The right to redefine marriage based on sexual desire is denied to polyamorists, polygamists, incestuous partners, and pederasts, showing that so-called same-sex marriage is about bogus special rights, not God-given equal rights;

2) The criminalization of Christianity in the public square, as business owners are threatened with law suits if they seek to run their businesses in accordance with their Christian convictions, and as all Christians are shoved to the margins of society, denied jobs, and removed from jobs because of their moral views. When will naive Christians wake up and realize that the goal of this agenda is to criminalize and marginalize them! It is not about securing equal rights for anyone." 5

Many commentators would disagree with Rizley's assertion that federal courts are re-writing marriage laws. That has traditionally been the responsibility of Florida, the District of Columbia and the 49 other states. What the courts have done is to declare a conflict between a state ban on same-sex marriage and the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Those clauses state very clearly that states must treat individuals and couples equally.

No citizen or special interest group has redefined marriage. They have merely advocated for change. In the United States, it is up to the states to define who is eligible to marry. It is up to the courts to determine whether the states' definitions are constitutional or not. That is how constitutions work. Whether a judge believes that a particular law or amendment to a constitution is a good idea is not involved in their ruling.

Having a homosexual orientation is not considered sexually deviant by large national professional mental health associations, as well as most religious liberals, secularists and the LGBT community. They consider heterosexual, bisexual and homosexual orientations to be normal, natural, discovered, and fixed in adulthood. It is typically religious and social conservatives and one very small professional organization -- the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) that consider homosexual orientation to be deviant.

Incestuous partners are banned from marrying because of genetically-generated disorders among their children. The term "pederasts" has multiple meanings, but normally refers to adult males raping young boys -- a criminal act. Because of their age, the victims cannot consent to sexual behavior and are not eligible to marry their rapists.

Polygamists and polyamorists are not allowed to marry because marriage in the United States is restricted everywhere to two persons. Whether this is changed in the future to three or more is anyone's guess. However, if such marriages become allowed, there would probably have to be protections in place to protect women because many religiously-motivated polygamous marriages are horrendously abusive.

Rizley's reference to all Americans already enjoying equal rights in marriage refers to the right of any man to marry any woman, subject only to being of a sufficient age and not being too closely related genetically. Thus any adult lesbian can marry almost any adult male heterosexual, and any adult gay male can marry almost any adult female heterosexual. Every adult has the same marriage rights. The vast majority of lesbians and gays, as well as many others, feel that this is inadequate. They assert that two people who are committed to support each other for life, who are not too closely related, and who meet the state's minimum age, should be able to obtain a marriage license and marry whether they are of the same or opposite sex.

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This topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above menu. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Mike Schneider, "Gay Couple Sue DMV Over Driver's License Names," ABC News, 2014-DEC-01, at: http://abcnews.go.com/
  2. , "Could Same-Sex Marriage be Legal in Florida Jan. 6?," Daily Business Review, 2014-DEC-03, at: http://www.dailybusinessreview.com/
  3. "Editorial: Florida should stop defending ban on gay marriage," Tampa Bay times, 2014-DEC-05, at: http://www.tampabay.com/
  4. Steve Rothaus, "Same-sex marriages in Florida could begin Jan. 6 after appeals court decision," Tampa Bay times, 2014-DEC-03, at: http://www.tampabay.com/
  5. Michael F. Haverluck, "Will 3 judges override 5M Florida voters on same-sex ‘marriage?’," One News Now, 2014-NOV-26, at: http://www.onenewsnow.com
  6. "US Judge Won’t Lift Stay In Florida Gay Marriage," CBS Miami, 2014-NOV-05, at: http://miami.cbslocal.com/
  7. "Wedding Planning: How to Get a Marriage License," The Knot, 2014, at: http://wedding.theknot.com/

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Site navigation: Home > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > Menu > Florida > here

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Copyright © 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2014-DEC-05
Latest update: 2014-DEC-22
Author: B.A. Robinson

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