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Florida: Recognition of same-sex marriages (SSMs)

Part 15: 2014-DEC:
More reactions to 11th Circuit Court's decision.
Will same-sex couples be able to marry in JAN?
Newspaper suggests state should allow SSM.
State asks the U.S. Supreme Court to extend stay.

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This topic is a continuation from the previous essay

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2014-DEC: More Comments on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision to not extend District Court Judge Hinkle's stay:

  • Ron Saunders, attorney for Monroe County Court Clerk Amy Heavilin, said that their office is prepared to issue marriage licenses to qualified same-sex couples. He said:

    "We've been ready. We've had to change the vows from husband and wife, made sure everyone knew the procedures. ... We're ready to do whatever is legal."

  • U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, (D) issued a statement saying that the Circuit Court's ruling:

    "... is a very good sign that Florida's same-sex marriage ban appears headed for the ash heap of history." 2

  • Daniel Tilley, an attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union - Florida said that the appeals court's decision:

    "... rejected the state's argument that allowing same-sex couples to marry and have their marriages recognized will cause harm to the state and refused to make these families wait any longer. ... The court effectively ruled that the state does not have a likelihood of succeeding in its appeal. The stories of the individuals represented in our case demonstrate that Florida's ban on marriages for same-sex couples hurts Florida families, and we are hopeful that that harm will finally be coming to an end soon." 2

  • Lawyer Elizabeth Schwartz represented the plaintiffs in a state court -- the Miami-Dade Circuit Court -- who sought the right to marry. She said:

    "While this isn't a final order in the federal case — both the federal appeal and the our state appeal will continue to proceed — this is a huge step forward for fair-minded Floridians. We expect marriage licenses to be issued to same-sex couples statewide [on] Jan. 6.'' 2

    Jorge Isaias Diaz and his partner Don Price Johnston are two plaintiffs in the Equality Florida case . They expect to marry after the stay expires. Diaz said that he would not be disappointed if his case isn't the one that ends the marriage equality ban in Florida. He said:

    "The bottom line is that we achieved whatever we wanted to achieve, that is to get married. I'm thrilled and I'm pleased because we did what we set out to do." 2

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2014-DEC: How likely/unlikely is it that marriage equality will arrive in Florida on the morning of 2015-JAN-06?

If there are no additional court decisions, then it would seem that same-sex couples will be able to apply for marriage licenses on Tuesday, JAN-06 in at least Washington and Monroe Counties, FL.

However, the above comments by pro-equality individuals may be over-optimistic. Judging by the past enthusiasm with which Attorney General Pam Bondi (R) has opposed marriage equality in the past, it is quite probable that she will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to extend the stay beyond JAN-05, and thus prevent same-sex couples from obtaining marriage licenses.

That would involve an appeal to Justice Clarence Thomas of the U.S. Supreme Court. He is the Justice responsible for emergency appeals from Florida and other states and territories served by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. That includes Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Justice Thomas is often referred to as an originalist. He believes that the U.S. Constitution should be interpreted according to the original meaning and intent of its authors at the time that they wrote the document. Back in the late 18th Century, same-gender sexual behavior was considered a very serious criminal act throughout the U.S. The authors of the Constitution would certainly have been opposed to marriage equality, if the concept had ever occurred to them. However, most of the other Justices on the high court view the U.S. Constitution as a living document that must be reinterpreted in the light of recent scientific findings and evolving social values.

If Justice Thomas were to exercise his prerogative to personally decide on Florida's request to extend the stay, he might grant the request. However, Supreme Court Justices often pass such questions over to the full Supreme Court to decide. Based on the full Court's decision on 2014-OCT-06 to refuse states' appeals of rulings by the 4th 7th and 10th Circuit Courts, and their subsequent decisions to refuse stay extensions in South Carolina, Alaska, Idaho and Kansas, the full Supreme Court might well vote to deny the Attorney General's request for an extension of the stay.

So, whether same-sex couples will be able to pick up marriage licenses on 2015-JAN-06 appears to be mainly under the control of Justice Clarence Thomas.

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2014-DEC-04: Editorial in the Tampa Bay Times recommends that state abandon the fight and allow same-sex marriages to proceed:

The article powerfully supports marriage equality in Florida. It states:

"A federal [11th Circuit Court of Appeals] ... in Atlanta ruled on the right side of history by refusing to extend a ban on gay marriage in Florida. The ruling upholds the dignity of every human being regardless of sexual orientation, and it protects the American right to privacy by limiting the government's reach into everyday life. Attorney General Pam Bondi should embrace these same solid values and quit wasting Florida's money and tarnishing its reputation by continuing to stand in the way. ..."

"There is a wave of [court] rulings against these bigoted laws across the country, and it is past time that the fourth-largest state stood up and recognized equal rights. ..."

"Bondi should drop the state's appeal and allow Floridians to get on with their lives. The new year should bring a new opportunity for gay couples to enjoy the full freedoms to which all Americans are entitled." 10

As is very common in the American media, this editorial confuses "gay couples" with "same-sex couples." The former term refers to relationships between two lesbians or two gay men. The latter term is more inclusive. It refers to any couple composed of two women or two men, and may include one or two bisexuals. Florida's constitutional ban extends to all same-sex couples

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2015-DEC-15: As expected, Attorney General Pam Bondi filed request for an extension of the stay with the U.S. Supreme Court:

Florida's Attorney General, Pam bondi filed an emergency appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court, asking that they extend the District Court's stay that prevents same-sex couples from marrying. The District Court had set the stay to expire on 2015-JAN-05. 4

The AG's press office issued a statement:

"Attorney General’s Office files application to stay preliminary injunctions pending appeal filed in the U.S. Supreme Court in consolidated same sex marriage case.

When the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida ordered the Washington County Clerk of Court to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple, it temporarily stayed the order. That stay is now set to expire at the end of the day on Jan. 5, 2015. The recent decision denying a longer stay has created statewide confusion about the effect of the injunction, which is directed to only one of Florida's sixty-seven clerks of court.

In a continuation of the effort to maintain uniformity and order throughout Florida until final resolution of the numerous challenges to the voter-approved constitutional amendment on marriage, the Attorney General’s Office filed with the United States Supreme Court an application to extend the stay. If the Supreme Court grants the application, the stay will remain in place during the state's appeal. If the Supreme Court denies the stay, then the preliminary injunction will become effective at the end of the day on Jan. 5, 2015." 11

A copy of the application is online. 12

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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. 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
  2. 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/
  3. , "Could Same-Sex Marriage be Legal in Florida Jan. 6?," Daily Business Review, 2014-DEC-03, at: http://www.dailybusinessreview.com/
  4. Rene Stultman, "Pam Bondi files appeal, asking U.S. Supreme Court to delay gay marriage in Florida," Orlando Sentinel, 2014-DEC-15, at: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/
  5. "Bondi Files Application to Stay Preliminary Injunctions in Same Sex Marriage Case," WCTV, Tallahassee, FL, 2014-DEC-15, at: http://www.wctv.tv/
  6. John Gallagher, "By Letting Weddings Start In Florida, The Supreme Court Just Made It Clear That Marriage Equality Is A Done Deal," Querty, 201-DEC-20, at: http://www.queerty.com/
  7. Laura Green, "Florida’s request to hold gay marriage rejected," Palm Beach Post, 2014-DEC-19, at: http://postonpolitics.blog.palmbeachpost.com/
  8. Jason Hanna, "Supreme Court declines to block Florida same-sex marriages," CNN, 2014-DEC-20, at: http://www.cnn.com/
  9. Amanda Holpuch, "Gay marriages to begin in Florida after supreme court rejects delay," The Guardian, 2014-DEC-20, at: http://www.theguardian.com/
  10. Editors, "Florida should stop defending ban on gay marriage," Tampa Bay Times, 2014-DEC-04, at: http://www.tampabay.com/
  11. "Memo: Attorney General's Office Files Application to Stay Preliminary Injunctions in Same Sex Marriage Case," Florida Attorney General's Office, 2014-DEC-15, at: http://www.myfloridalegal.com/
  12. "Application to Stay Preliminary Injunctions of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida Pending Appeal," Florida Attorney General's Office, 2014-DEC-15, at: http://myfloridalegal.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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