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Supreme Court Rejects Gay Marriage Appeals: What Does That Mean for Florida?

On Monday, the United States Supreme Court rejected five states looking to keep same-sex marriages illegal, which means Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin can immediately join the other states that recognize same-sex unions.

Moreover, same-sex couples living in Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Wyoming will also soon be able to get married, since those states were bound by the same appellate rulings.

And then there's Florida.

In the past year, five Florida judges have ruled that the ban on same-sex marriage in the state is unconstitutional. Yet State Attorney General Pam Bondi has stepped in to appeal and keep same-sex marriage illegal in Florida in each case.

So what does the latest Supreme Court ruling for those five states mean for Florida?

Technically, it means not much.

But it also shines a brighter light on Bondi and Rick Scott's continued insistence to keep the same-sex marriage ban in Florida.

In other words, they're running out of reasons to keep this going.

After each ruling, Bondi has filed motions in state appeals court requesting a freeze on appeals by same-sex couples who are challenging Florida's gay marriage ban. With the motions, Bondi signaled a desire for the Supreme Court to decide whether states have the right to ban gay marriage. The result would be the legalization of same-sex marriage in Florida to be mired in the legal system as SCOTUS tackles the issue.

And while SCOTUS does not have Florida's rulings on the docket, Monday's ruling leaves Florida as one of the few remaining states that refuses to lift the same-sex marriage ban.

And that responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of Scott and Bondi, both of whom are running for reelection in November.

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 have started marrying on September 22.

But despite calls from gay rights groups and activists not to intervene, Bondi filed the appeal in early September.

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.

While Bondi's contention for filing appeals has been that it would be a burden on Florida's taxpayers to keep bringing these issues to court, she's also been extremely vocal and public on her anti-same-sex marriage stance.

In June, she argued against six gay and lesbian couples suing the state for the legalization of same-sex marriage.

Bondi wrote, "Disrupting Florida's existing marriage laws would impose significant public harm."

She added, "Florida's marriage laws have a close, direct and rational relationship to society's legitimate interest in increasing the likelihood that children will be born to and raised by the mothers and fathers who produced them in stable and enduring family units."

Yet even with her opposition, more and more polls show the majority of Floridians support the freedom to marry for same-sex couples.

Monday's SCOTUS ruling means that the total of states that allow same-sex marriage will go to 30, with Florida on the outside looking in.

"In light of today's action, we call on Pam Bondi and Rick Scott to immediately announce they will now drop their senseless appeals," Nadine Smith, CEO of Equality Florida, said in a statement following the SCOTUS ruling. "There is no reason to wait another day or waste another dollar crusading to keep discrimination in place in Florida.

"Attorneys General and governors across the country, aware of their duty to protect the basic rights of their residents, have declined to defend anti-gay marriage bans precisely because it is clear to them that these laws are both morally and constitutionally indefensible," Smith added.

Back in September, when Bondi filed the appeal against Hinkle's ruling, Equality Florida Deputy Director Stratton Pollitzer said the ultimate fault lies with Scott.

"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 at the time. "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."

So while the SCOTUS ruling doesn't directly affect Florida, it clearly removes Bondi and Scott's last stronghold to keep the ban on lockdown.

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Chris Joseph
Contact: Chris Joseph

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