Florida judge says Orlando official can issue same-sex marriage licenses


ORLANDO, Fla. — A Florida judge on Wednesday gave the clerk of courts in Orlando the green light to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples starting next week.

OrlandoThe order by Circuit Judge Timothy Shea, whose jurisdiction covers only Orange and Osceola counties in metro Orlando, says that a federal judge’s decision that the state’s ban on gay marriages is unconstitutional is “the law of Florida.”

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle in Tallahassee that ends the ban on same-sex marriage in Florida “is an excellent, well-thought-out legally sound decision that controls the law in the State of Florida,” Shea said in his order.

Orange County Clerk of Courts Tiffany Moore Russell won’t be breaking the law if she issues marriage licenses to same-sex couples when Florida’s ban on gay marriage is lifted next Tuesday, Shea said.

Moore Russell had petitioned the court for a ruling, given the confusion among Florida’s clerks of courts over whether the lifting of the gay marriage ban applied to counties other than Washington County. The remote county in Florida’s Panhandle is where a lawsuit challenging the state’s ban on gay marriage originated.

The association that represents county clerks has said the ruling applies only in Washington County, but gay rights groups argued the decision applies to all of Florida’s 67 clerks of court.

A survey of clerks last week by The Associated Press showed that an overwhelming majority didn’t plan to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples until they had further legal clarity.

Washington County’s clerk asked the judge to clarify if his ruling applied only to her county or to all of Florida. The judge has yet to issue an order on that matter.

Palm Beach County’s clerk, Sharon Bock, said Wednesday she would a file a similar petition seeking clarification if Hinkle hadn’t ruled by Friday. She said her office has been preparing to issue licenses for same-sex couple and is only awaiting a final decision from Hinkle.

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Hinkle had asked two Florida agencies to state their positions by Monday on whether the lifting of the ban applies to counties outside of Washington County.

In a brief filed late Monday, Attorney General Pam Bondi didn’t offer a clear opinion on who is right. If Hinkle intends for the ruling to apply more widely, he should “provide appropriate clarification,” the brief said.

Meanwhile, a conservative group on Tuesday sued Osceola County’s clerk of court, Orlando’s mayor and an Orlando judge in an effort to stop them from helping same-sex couples get married. The lawsuits filed by the Florida Family Action, Inc. asked a judge to prevent the officials from either officiating or issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples

A copy of Wednesday’s order is here

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