According to Equality Florida, one of the state's leading LGBT rights organizations, same-sex marriages could begin in Florida as early as September 22, if by September 21 no one appeals last week's ruling in a federal case made by U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle.
On August 21, Hinkle ruled that Florida's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. Any appeal of his decision would need to be filed within 30 days.
Only three people -- two of them Rick Scott appointees -- have the authority to intervene and file an appeal. If they fail to act within 30 days, Hinkle's ruling will stand, making gay marriage legal throughout the state.
Though Hinkle placed a stay on his decision that could persist for months, Equality Florida does not believe this will be the case.
"If there is no appeal by midnight on Monday, Sept. 22nd, then Judge Hinkle's ruling that Florida's marriage ban is unConstitutional will stand and the ban will fall. We have every expectation that if there no appeal and the deadline passes, then Judge Hinkle would almost immediately lift the stay on this ruling," said Stratton Politzer, Deputy Director for Equality Florida.
Meanwhile, the Shaw case from Central Florida has been sent straight to the Florida Supreme Court, and the merged Pareto-Huntsman case in South Florida is still pending approval whether it will also be sent directly to the state's Supreme Court. Since it is uncertain whether the Florida Supreme Court will take up these cases (anytime soon), Hinkle's ruling at the federal level, if it is not appealed, would stand in expediently bringing marriage equality to Florida. If the federal case were to be appealed, it would be redirected to the Supreme Court of the United States. Though SCOTUS is the final arbiter of federal constitutional questions, it would be under no obligation to take up the case.