Pam Bondi Appeals Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

It had appeared as if maybe she wouldn't, but late Thursday afternoon Florida state Attorney General Pam Bondi filed an appeal notice on behalf of Surgeon General Dr. John H. Armstrong, Secretary of Management Services Craig J. Nichols, and Washington County Clerk of Court Harold Bazzell.

On August 21, U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle ruled that Florida's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. This meant, had no appeal been filed, that same-sex couples in Florida could start marrying on September 22.

Equality Florida Deputy Director Stratton Pollitzer said in a statement that the fault lies with Gov. Rick Scott.

"Make no mistake, the responsibility for today's appeal belongs to Gov. Scott," Pollitzer said. "This appeal would not be moving forward without his full support."

Florida banned same-sex marriage in 2008. And now, despite five rulings for same-sex marriage rights in the past several months, Florida will have to likely wait for the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on the ban.

The specific case Hinkle ruled on 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 is a woman whose wife has recently passed away, and she is seeking for her spouse's death certificate to reflect their marriage of almost 50 years.

"There is no good reason to further deny the simple human dignity of being listed on her spouse's death certificate," Hinkle wrote in his 33-page ruling.

Hinkle said the 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. "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."

Hinkle added: "The institution of marriage survived when bans on interracial marriage were struck down, and the institution will survive when bans on same-sex marriage are struck down. Liberty, tolerance, and respect are not zero-sum concepts."

In August, 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.

However, Bondi did not appeal a Broward circuit court ruling on gay marriage. The deadline for that passed Wednesday.

Last month, Broward County Circuit Court Judge Dale Cohen presided over a same-sex couple's divorce. The couple were not married in Florida, but the court needed to recognize the relationship as an out-of-state civil union in order to grant a divorce. This meant Cohen had to weigh in on Florida's same-sex marriage ban. In order to grant the divorce, Cohen had to rule the ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, which he did.

Still, Pollitzer sees the appeals that were filed as stalling tactics and called out Scott for hiding behind Bondi and her officials.

"The governor's continued strategy of trying to hide behind the attorney general and even his own employees is a shameful display of election-year cowardice," Pollitzer said. "If Gov. Scott insists on continuing his crusade to keep people who love each other from marrying, he should stop mumbling and hiding and take full responsibility for the continued suffering the ban inflicts every day it remains in place.

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