Yesterday U.S. Federal Court Judge Robert L. Hinkle stated that his preliminary injunction in Brenner v. Scott has statewide effect, meaning all Florida clerks may issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples beginning Tuesday.
In response to Hinkle's order, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi publicly stated she concedes to the federal judge's (beyond all doubt) clarification that his August ruling on Brenner has statewide effect.
"This office has sought to minimize confusion and uncertainty," wrote Bondi. "And we are glad the Court has provided additional guidance. ... My office will not stand in the way as clerks of court determine how to proceed."
Though Greenberg Traurig, the legal counsel for the Florida Association of Clerks and Comptrollers, advised clerks across the state last month to not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples unless they wanted to risk criminal prosecution for not complying with the ban against gay marriage, the firm has now stated:
"[The federal court's] order states that the Constitution requires all clerks to issue marriage licenses to all applicants, regardless of gender."
According to Elizabeth "Betsy" White, one of the attorneys representing the gay couples in Brenner, Florida's clerks should feel comfortable in following Hinkle's orders.
"They will not will be criminally prosecuted because the statute prohibiting them from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples must be read together with the state ban," said White. "Since a federal court judge has declared Florida's bans on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional, that statute is unenforceable."
As we've explained, the state is still appealing in Brenner v. Scott and it is possible the constitutionality of gay marraige could be reversed by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, or by the Supreme Court if it takes up a related case, but for now at least, James Brenner, along with his husband Charles "Chuck" Jones (they were married out of state) are excited.
Their marriage will soon be legally recognized in the state they call home and their lawsuit is poised to bring marriage equality to thousands of couples across Florida.
"We feel grateful for all the support we have received from the LGBT community, our lawyers and our friends," Brenner said. "We are so humbled by so many well wishers sending texts, emails and phone calls. My husband is walking around the house quoting Judge Hinkle's most profound statement from the order: 'They lost (referring to the state).' I am not entirely sure he is not losing it, too. He has this funny grin on his face."