Same-Sex Marriage In Florida: Supreme Court Won’t Intervene, SSM Licenses To Begin January 6

The United States Supreme Court issued a ruling on Friday that compels the State of Florida to begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses beginning as early as January 6, the Miami Herald is reporting.

In 2008, Florida voters approved — with 62 percent of voters in favor — an amendment to the state’s constitution banning same-sex marriage. However, representing eight same-sex couples and one widow hoping to have their marriages recognized in Florida, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued to have the gay marriage ban overturned.

U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle of Tallahassee sided with the ACLU in an August 21 ruling, calling the state’s gay marriage ban “a pretext for discrimination.” However, the ruling would not come into effect until January 5, giving Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi time to prepare an appeal.

Bondi appealed to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeal in Atlanta, which has jurisdiction over Florida. Although the Circuit Court hasn’t yet heard the appeal, the judges refused to extend the stay. Bondi then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Specifically, her appeal was given to Justice Clarence Thomas, who oversees the 11th Circuit.

In an exceptionally brief ruling, today the Supreme Court refused to extend the stay, effectively ending Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage.

“The application for stay presented to Justice Thomas and by him referred to the Court is denied.”

Bondi issued a statement today saying she respects the Court’s decision, according to NBC News.

“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.”

Regardless of today’s Supreme Court ruling, the issue of same-sex marriage in Florida is not conclusively settled, according to ABC News. Today’s decision only refuses to extend a stay of a lower court ruling; it does not directly address the question of whether or not Florida’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional.

Until the matter is completely settled in the courts, some state clerks in Florida remain confused about whether or not they can issue same-sex marriage licenses. The state clerks association has told members that they risk breaking the law if they issue same-sex marriage licenses before the matter is settled, although ABC News reports that it is not clear how many, if any, Florida state clerks will heed that advice.

[Image courtesy of: NBC News]