Florida's Same-Sex Couples Could Start Marrying on September 22 If Rick Scott Team Lets Court Ruling Stand

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Last week, Judge Hinkle ruled that Florida's same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional. He wrote:

"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. Those who enter opposite-sex marriages are harmed not at all when others, including these plaintiffs, are given the liberty to choose their own life partners and are shown the respect that comes with formal marriage. Tolerating views with which one disagrees is a hallmark of civilized society.

... The Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized the fundamental right to marry. The Court applied the right to interracial marriage in 1967 despite state laws that were widespread and of long standing. Just last year the Court struck down a federal statute that prohibited federal recognition of same-sex marriages lawfully entered in other jurisdictions. The Florida provisions that prohibit the recognition of same-sex marriages lawfully entered elsewhere, like the federal provision, are unconstitutional. So is the Florida ban on entering same-sex marriages."

Hinkle also dismissed State Attorney General Pam Bondi from the case, and now there remain only three people who have the authority to file an appeal: Craig J. Nichols, Florida's Secretary of Management Services ; John H. Armstrong, Florida's Surgeon General; and Harold Bazzel, Washington County Clerk of Court. Asgrimsley_v._scott_order_granting_preliminary_injunction.pdf" target="_blank"> this court ruling explains, they are the "proper defendants."

Equality Florida has now initiated a viral internet campaign, asking people to contact Governor Scott and demand he not influence Nichols, Armstrong or Bazzel to appealing Hinkle's marriage ruling. Charlie Crist has likewise called on Scott to let Hinkle's ruling stand. In a letter to Governor Scott, Crist wrote:

"Last Thursday Federal District Judge Robert Hinkle gave you the same chance to speak out for what is right when, in a ruling that would apply statewide, he struck down Florida's ban on same sex marriage. By declaring the marriage ban finished you could discourage any future appeals and end the nightmare that loving same sex couples all across our state endure every single day, ending court battles that could drag on for months or years.

Courts throughout Florida are endorsing the principle that government ought not deprive an entire class of citizens the right to marry simply because of whom they love. Florida deserves a governor who will stand up for all of the people of this state.

You have the power to end the suffering of people like Arlene Goldberg. Last March, Arlene lost her wife and partner of 47 years, Carol Goldwasser. At a moment of enormous and understandable grief, Arlene had to suffer the humiliation of not being listed as Carol's wife on the death certificate. Even worse, she lost her home because she was denied the social security benefits they had earned."

Pressure is on for Scott, who faces a tight race for reelection this November. Will he try to uphold the ban and appease his conservative base? Or will he take a no-interference approach, letting gay marriages proceed, thus signaling that he accepts a modicum of socially liberal policies, and softening his reputation?

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Jonathan Kendall
Contact: Jonathan Kendall