Pam Bondi Asks to Freeze Gay Marriage Cases Until Supreme Court Decides
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi wants the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) to decide whether the Fourteenth Amendment requires states to sanction same-sex marriage. If her motion is successful, then the South Florida couples who are challenging the state's ban would not be heard in the Third District Court of Appeal nor the Florida Supreme Court (FSC), but will have to wait from a decision from SCOTUS.
According to the motion:
"Despite the vigorous policy and legal debates surrounding same-sex marriage, there is little disagreement about this: If the United States Supreme Court holds that States must sanction same-sex marriage, then Florida's contrary laws must fall. And if the United States Supreme Court holds that States may choose, then Plaintiffs' contrary legal claims must fall, and it would be up to Florida's voters to effect any change."
Bondi argues it would save taxpayer money (and prevent the future "burdening" of Florida judges) for SCOTUS to decide the issue conclusively in similar cases pending in Utah and Oklahoma, rather than for the Florida cases to go through the appeals process at the possible consequence of being overruled by the Court.
If this motion is approved, however, then Floridians could have to wait a year -- and maybe as long as three years -- for SCOTUS to address whether state bans on same-sex marriage are Constitutional, and this is only if the Court grants certiorari to either of the other state cases.
However, the South Florida couples who are fighting for the right to marry are not set on letting things play out like this because it would continue to delay their relief-- especially since a decision from the FSC could be effective statewide unless SCOTUS chose to pick up the case.
"We're not going to let this happen because we're full force in wanting to get married," said Aaron Huntsman, who with his partner Lee are challenging the state's ban from Monroe County. "We all need to rally as a community to show the state of Florida that we're all in this together. Our goal is to get our Constitutional right and for that to happen we all need to band together."
Todd and Jeff Delmay, one of the couples in the Pareto case, are also upset with today's news. They feel that they have come so close to marrying in the place they call home, only to have their case possibly frozen until SCOTUS decides.
"There are no guarantees that Supreme Court will take up a case any time soon, if ever. Not to mention this is a Florida law that needs to be handled in the Florida courts without delay," said Todd Delmay. "The right thing to do would be [for her] to join us in asking that the Florida Supreme Court to consider the issue immediately to provide relief for our families. Her job is to protect all Floridians, not protect herself from losing on a landmark issue. Clearly the indefensible position she has staked out on this issue really can no longer be defended. Instead, she hopes to delay and let somebody else decide. We deserve better, and we shouldn't be asked to wait any longer."
One of the case's attorneys, Bernadette Restivo, believes that Bondi's motion is without merit and "defies logic."
"[Bondi] believes it would save tax payer money to freeze the cases, but the only way to save money is to bring this issue directly to the Florida Supreme Court."
Restivo further believes this motion by the attorney general is a ploy to stall the issue's in-state resolution.
"I think this is a callous tactic that the attorney general is using," said Restivo. "Bondi is trying to further oppress the rights of my clients and thousands of others in Florida. She seems more concerned about the voters' decision in 2008 than the fundamental rights of these couples that are being suppressed by this oppressive law."
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