Friday, October 24 is a critical day for marriage equality in Florida. That is the deadline for Attorney General Pam Bondi to decide if she will oppose a request that a federal judge lift a stay and allow marriage licenses to be issues to same-sex couples in Florida.
Earlier this month the US Supreme Court paved the way for marriages for same-sex couples to commence in 13 states by refusing to hear appeals of five circuit court rulings that found state bans unconstitutional. The ACLU and lawyers for plaintiffs in a concurrent case immediately asked Judge Hinkle to lift the stay he put in place in January when he declared the ban a violation of equal protection and due process.
The country has changed dramatically since Judge Hinkle and four other Florida judges struck down the ban but put stays in place.
Before October 6, 2014, marriage was only legal in 19 states, plus the District of Columbia. Today, nearly 60% of the country lives in the 32 states where marriage is legal for gay couples.
“In all of those states, the result was simple: People got married, and happy, loving couples’ relationships and families were finally respected by their states,” said Nadine Smith, Equality Florida’s CEO.
On two occasions in the past month, the United States Courts for the 9th Circuit lifted a stay while decisions on marriage equality in Idaho and Alaska are appealed. The U.S. Supreme Court also refused to order the court to keep the stay in place while appeals continue, despite appeals from the defense. Both the Circuit Court and the U.S. Supreme Court stated that they will not make couples wait to marry while appeals are pending.
“Even if she continues to pursue an appeal, Attorney General Bondi should not hold our state and our families hostage by calling for the stay to remain in place. Should she choose to appeal, let her follow the lead of the 9th Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court and allow marriages to commence. Every day that Floridians are denied access to the protections only marriage can provide, our families suffer,” added Smith.
AG Bondi has already allowed a Florida couple’s marriage to be recognized when she chose not to appeal Judge Hinkle’s ruling that Arlene Goldberg be recognized as a spouse on her wife Carol Goldwasser’s death certificate. On August 21, 2014, Judge Robert Hinkle declared the ban unconstitutional.
While four other judges struck down bans in their counties, this federal ruling was the first to cover the entire state. Judge Hinkle placed an immediate stay, except to require the death certificate to be reissued with the women listed as spouses.