Florida Same-Sex Marriages Can Start January 5, Court Rules

The 11th Judicial Circuit of Florida has denied Pam Bondi's request for an extended stay on same-sex marriage in the state, which means same-sex marriages may begin as soon as January 5. The stay, placed by U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle upon request from Bondi, expires on that date.

Back in August, Hinkle became the fifth judge in the state to rule against the same-sex marriage ban. Like the previous rulings, however, Hinkle immediately stayed his ruling, meaning that gay and lesbian couples still couldn't get marriage licenses.

Following Hinkle's ruling, gay rights activists called on the state -- particularly Bondi and Gov. Rick Scott -- to refrain from appealing Hinkle's federal court decision.

See also: Gay-Rights Group Demands Pam Bondi Get Out of the Way

Even before Hinkle's ruling, Bondi filed two motions in a state appeals court requesting a freeze on appeals by same-sex couples who are challenging Florida's gay marriage ban. With the motions, Bondi wants the U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether states have the right to ban gay marriage. Her contention is that it would be a burden on the state's taxpayers to keep bringing these issues to court.

But according to Wednesday's ruling, the "appellants' request for expedited review of the Motion is granted."

"Having reviewed and fully considered the Motion, the parties' briefs, and the orders issued by the District Court in the proceedings below," the court order goes on to say, "the Court hereby denies Appellants' Motion. The stay of preliminary injunctions entered by the District Court expires at the end of the day on January 5, 2015."

The specific case Hinkle ruled on in August involved ten same-sex couples, most of whom were married outside of Florida and were looking for their marriages to be recognized by the state. Among the plaintiffs was a woman whose wife had recently passed away. The widow had been seeking for her spouse's death certificate to reflect their relationship of almost 50 years.

At the time of his ruling, Hinkle said Florida's ban on same-sex marriage is simple discrimination and compared it to a time when interracial marriage was banned in America. He also said that history will judge this to be true and that there should be no limits to liberty or tolerance.

"When observers look back 50 years from now, the arguments supporting Florida's ban on same-sex marriage, though just as sincerely held, will again seem an obvious pretext for discrimination," Hinkle wrote in his ruling in August. "To paraphrase a civil rights leader from the age when interracial marriage was struck down, the arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice."

Wednesday's order by the 11th Circuit is being met with enthusiasm by gay-rights activists.

"We are thrilled that the 11th Circuit has denied the state's request to delay marriages in Florida. Every day of delay is another day of harm experienced by thousands of loving and committed same-sex couples in Florida. Now it's time to break out the wedding bells," said Nadine Smith, CEO of Equality Florida, via a news release.

"Florida is ready for the freedom to marry!"

Order Denying Stay on Same Sex Marriage by Chris Joseph

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