Supreme 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."