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Supreme Court Denies Stay Request in Florida Gay Marriage Case, Marriage Equality Set to Begin January 5

Scotus

In a one page order released Friday afternoon, the Supreme Court of the United States denied Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi's request for an emergency stay on Judge Robert Hinkle's August ruling overturning the state's ban on same-sex marriage.

The order indicates that Justices Scalia and Thomas would have granted the stay request.

Earlier this month, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to extend Judge Hinkle's temporary stay on his ruling. With the Supreme Court now choosing not intervene in Florida, gay couples in the state are expected to be able to wed at the end of the day on January 5.

BondiBondi has released a statement saying:

“Tonight, 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 January 5.”

Chris Johnson with the Washington Blade writes on the importance of SCOTUS denying the stay request:

The refusal from the Supreme Court to stay same-sex marriages in Florida is noteworthy because although justices have denied similar requests to halt same-sex marriages in Alaska, Idaho, South Carolina and Kansas, they’ve never done so before in a state where a federal appeals court has yet to rule on the issue. The decision with regard to Florida could be a sign the Supreme Court is ready to rule in favor of nationwide marriage equality no matter what the federal appeals courts decide in the interim.

Here's the order, via Equality Case Files:


Florida Court Clerks Association Warns Clerks Who Issue Same-Sex Marriage Licenses May Face Criminal Charges

Florida

Florida’s State Court Clerks Association has begun sending out notices to clerks throughout the state informing them that they may face legal action if they issue marriage licenses to same sex couples this upcoming January.

“Florida’s Court Clerks & Comptrollers’ duty is to act in accordance with Florida law,” warned the association in a statement. “Florida Statutes are unique in regard to prohibiting the issuance of a marriage license to a couple that is not a man and a woman, in that it provides that a Clerk who violates this prohibition is guilty of a criminal act and subject to a fine and/or imprisonment.”

BondiCurrently Florida’s ban on same sex marriage is in a state of legal limbo. Earlier this year U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle found that Florida’s ban was unconstitutional and moved to stay his decision until January 5th of 2015. Pam Bondi, Florida’s Attorney General, unsuccessfully appealed to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals to have the stay extended past its current January expiration, and has since requested an extension from Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

It’s expected that gay couples throughout Florida will apply for marriage licenses on the 6th of January, but the Court Clerks Association hazards that the details of Hinkle’s repeal of Florida’s ban only applies to a specific clerk explicitly named in the initial lawsuit that led to the ruling.

“When a federal judge declares a law unconstitutional, all public officials should cease enforcing that law. Period,” said Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU in Florida. “Let’s leave the legalistic hypotheticals for the law school classroom and look at the practical reality: Are local officials seriously preparing to arrest and criminally charge Miami-Dade Clerk Harvey Ruvin for enforcing a federal judge’s order? That’s preposterous.”

In related Florida news, the ACLU has filed a response to Bondi's Supreme Court motion, with the ACLU asking the high court to reject Florida's request for further extension of the stay. 

Read the ACLU response below:


Clarence Thomas To Consider Staying Same-Sex Marriage in Florida

ThomasSupreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has accepted a request from Florida's Attorney General Pam Bondi to hear arguments on a federal judge's ruling that overturned the state's ban on same-sex marriage. The ruling in question comes from Judge Robert Hinkle. Hinkle found that Florida's voter-approved marriage ban violated the U.S. Constitution and declared that same-sex couples must be allowed to marry in the Sunshine State starting January 6. Bondi for her part has appealed that ruling to the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and wants Justice Thomas to stay Judge Hinkle's ruling so that it will not go into effect until the 11th Circuit has a chance to consider the question. Bondi is hanging her hopes on the incongruency that now exists in the wake of the 6th Circuit upholding a state's ban on same-sex marriage, becoming the only circuit court to uphold such a ban. The Sun-Sentinel reports:

[Pam Bondi] pointed out there is a conflict among federal appellate rulings -- the sixth district upheld a state marriage ban while all other federal appeals courts that have heard such cases have overturned these bans.

Bondi also claimed the likelihood was the Supreme Court would have to hear this case, and that it would, upon review, "likely reaffirm the States' nearly exclusive authority to define marriage and hold that the Fourteenth Amendment allows states to define marriage as Florida has." [...]

Attorneys seeking same-sex marriage have until 5 p.m Thursday to present their case for why the hold should be lifted.

Thomas is the justice who accepts requests from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Florida, Georgia and Alabama. On December 3, that appellate court refused to delay Hinkle's ruling.

After receiving arguments from all parties involved in the suit, Thomas can either act alone to continue the hold, allow it to be lifted on January 5, or else bring the matter to his colleagues on the Court.

This is not the first time the Supreme Court has been asked to continue such a stay, but it has previously turned down such requests.

However Thomas "has indicated in previous, similar cases that he would have granted a stay," said Elizabeth Schwartz, an attorney involved in same-sex marriage lawsuits in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties that are going through state appellate court.

Thomas has no deadline by which to decide what to do in this case, but in previous instances, the court and individual justices have ruled quickly. 

"I don't think anyone was surprised that [Thomas] asked for more information, and I think it's also likely he'll want to continue this with the full court," Schwartz said. "I do think they'll rule on it possibly on Friday."


Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi Asks Supreme Court to Stay Gay Marriage Ruling

BondiFlorida Attorney General Pam Bondi has filed a motion with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas asking for an emergency stay on Judge Robert Hinkle's August ruling overturning the state's ban on same-sex marriage.

Earlier this month, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to extend Judge Hinkle's temporary stay on his ruling. If the Supreme Court chooses to not intervene in Florida, gay couples will be able to wed at the end of the day on January 5.

Responding to today’s filing, ACLU of Florida LGBT rights attorney Daniel Tilley stated:

“It is unsurprising, given how hard Governor Scott, his appointees, and Attorney General Bondi have fought to keep loving and committed couples from getting married and having their marriages recognized in Florida, that they would keep up this dead-end fight. But with just weeks until the ruling is scheduled to go into effect, it is disappointing.

“Florida families have waited long enough for the end of a ban that a federal court has declared unconstitutional. Since October, the Supreme Court has refused all requests to stay rulings striking down the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage in other states. We are hopeful they will do the same here so that loving couples and their children can get the protections for which they have waited so long.”

Back in August, Bondi pledged to continue defending her state's gay marriage ban, saying she was "just getting started".

Last month, SCOTUS denied an emergency request in South Carolina's gay marriage case, but Justice Thomas stated he would have granted the stay. 

Read Bondi's motion via Equality Case Files:


Florida Judge Who Vacated Ruling Striking Down Same-Sex Marriage Ban Rules Again In Favor Of Equality

6a00d8341c730253ef01a3fd403811970b-250wiBroward County, Florida Judge Dale Cohen, who back in August struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage, yesterday ruled in favor of marriage equality and in opposition to the state's discriminatory ban once again. Cohen had vacated his earlier ruling after Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi argued that the attorneys for the plaintiff in the case in question did not give the state enough time to appeal the case. That decision is now moot.

Though Cohen has once again stayed his ruling, a recent decision from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals not to extend the stay of another ruling against Florida's same-sex marriage ban means that the state's gay couples could begin saying "I do" as soon as January 5. From the Sun-Sentinel:

The case involved Heather Brassner, who wanted a divorce after getting a civil union in Vermont in 2002. But Florida's ban on same-sex marriages prevents the state from recognizing same-sex marriages or civil unions performed in other states. Therefore, Brassner couldn't get divorced in the state. [...]

On Monday, Cohen once again ruled [Florida's] ban unconstitutional and put his ruling on hold pending appeal.

Still, that will not affect the swiftly approaching deadline in a federal case in Tallahassee.

Federal judge Robert Hinkle overturned Florida's same-sex marriage ban on Aug. 21, and put his ruling on hold until Jan. 5.

A federal appeals court still needs to hear the case, and could reverse Hinkle's decision, but that will not happen until well after the Jan. 5. The only way the deadline can now be extended is if the full appellate court or the U.S. Supreme Court agrees to extend Hinkle's stay, which lawyers involved in the case consider a long shot.


Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi Appeals Gay Marriage Ruling to Eleventh Circuit Court

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has filed an appeal with the Eleventh Circuit asking the court to take up Judge Robert Hinkle's August ruling overturning the state's ban on same-sex marriage. 

BondiLast week, Hinkle announced he would not lift the stay on his ruling before it is set to expire on January 5. The Eleventh Circuit also has jurisdiction over Alabama and Georgia - neither of which have marriage equailty yet. 

Here's an excerpt from Bondi's appeal:

Because no fundamental right is at issue, and because there is no other basis fro applying heightened scrutiny, only rational basis applies. Florida's laws satisfy this deferential standard. Florida's laws therefore do not violate the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. Nor do they violate the right to travel, the Establishment Clause, or a right to intimate association. 

Read the full appeal below via Equality Case Files


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