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No SCOTUS stay, same-sex marriages to begin in Florida Jan. 6


Florida apparently will recognize same-sex marriages on Jan. 6, after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to further stay a lower court's ruling that the state's ban on the unions is unconstitutional.

The high court, without explanation, rejected Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi's request to intervene. A U.S. District judge in Florida had ruled in August the state's ban was unconstitutional but stayed the ruling to allow for appeals.

In August, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle ruled the Florida ban—first put into law in 1977 and written into the state's constitution after a 2008 referendum—violates the "due process" and "equal protection" provisions in the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment. He also stayed his own ruling.

Pro-LGBT organizations praised the high court's action. "Committed and loving gay and lesbian couples in Florida are just as deserving of the right to marry as anyone else," said Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Legal Director Sarah Warbelow in a statement. "Every day these couples and their families are denied the protections and benefits that come with legal marriage, they risk real and serious consequences. We look forward to the day that all couples are able to have their relationships recognized as valid under the law."

"We are thrilled the U.S. Supreme Court has denied the State's request to delay marriages in Florida," said Nadine Smith, CEO of Equality Florida, in a separate statement. "Every day of delay is another day of harm experienced by thousands of loving and committed same-sex couples in Florida. It's time to break out the wedding bells! We look forward to January 6th being a special day—Florida is ready for the freedom to marry."

Read more story below....

Press releases:

From The Human Rights Campaign

WASHINGTON — Today the U.S. Supreme Court issued an order declining to extend the stay on a federal court ruling striking down Florida's ban on marriage for same-sex couples. The stay will expire at the end of the day on January 5, 2015, at which point same-sex couples can legally begin marrying in the Sunshine State.

"Committed and loving gay and lesbian couples in Florida are just as deserving of the right to marry as anyone else," said Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ) Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. "Every day these couples and their families are denied the protections and benefits that come with legal marriage, they risk real and serious consequences. We look forward to the day that all couples are able to have their relationships recognized as valid under the law."

Today's order from the U.S. Supreme Court pertains to an August 21st federal court decision in Brenner v. Scott in which U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle ruled Florida's ban on marriage equality violates Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses. Judge Hinkle stayed his ruling until "until 91 days after stays have been denied or lifted in Bostic v. Schaefer, Bishop v. Smith and Kitchen v. Herbert" — marriage equality cases from other states that were on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court at the time. The Supreme Court later declined to take up the cases, immediately ending the stays that were in place.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has appealed Judge Hinkle's ruling in the Brenner case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. Oral arguments have not yet been scheduled.

From Equality Florida

Today, the United States Supreme Court denied the State of Florida's motion for a stay of an August federal court ruling that overturned the state's ban on marriage for same-sex couples. The order means the stay expires at the end of the day on January 5. Same-sex couples will be free to marry in Florida once the stay in the ruling is lifted.

"We are thrilled the U.S. Supreme Court has denied the State's request to delay marriages in Florida," said Nadine Smith, CEO of Equality Florida, the state's largest advocacy organization for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Floridians. "Every day of delay is another day of harm experienced by thousands of loving and committed same-sex couples in Florida. It's time to break out the wedding bells! We look forward to January 6th being a special day — Florida is ready for the freedom to marry."

On August 21, US District Court Judge Robert Hinkle ruled in favor of the freedom to marry and respect for marriages legally performed between same-sex couples in other states in the federal marriage cases, Brenner v. Scott and Grimsley and Albu v. Scott, brought by the ACLU of Florida, SAVE and private counsel.

Daniel Tilley of the ACLU of Florida emphasized that now clerks across the entire state have a duty to marry couples. "The Supreme Court has spoken, and we expect clerks to begin marrying couples who will finally get access to the protections their families deserve."

The District Court placed a hold on the decision to allow time for an appeal, but the stay is scheduled to expire on January 5. On December 3, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit denied the State of Florida's request for an extension of that stay, allowing same-sex couples to marry, even as the appeal in the case proceeded.

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