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UPDATE: Fla. appeals court won’t lift stay in same-sex marriage case

Updated: 4:40 p.m. EDT

MIAMI — A Florida appeals court refused on Wednesday to overturn a judge’s order that is blocking gay couples from getting married in the Florida Keys.

FloridaThe Miami-based 3rd District Court of Appeal refused to invalidate a Monroe County judge’s decision temporarily preventing a wedding for Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones and other gay couples.

Circuit Judge Luis Garcia last week ruled that Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional because it discriminates against gay couples and violates the federal 14th Amendment’s guarantee of due process and equal protection under the law. Garcia’s initial order said marriage licenses could be issued to gays in Monroe County beginning Tuesday.

Attorney General Pam Bondi immediately filed notice of appeal, triggering an automatic stay that prevents any gay marriages until a potentially months-long appeals process is sorted out. Garcia on Monday declined to lift the stay because of the state’s appeal, leading to Wednesday’s action by the gay couple’s lawyers.

The appeals court issued a one-sentence ruling that keeps the stay in place.

Bernadette Restivo, attorney for Huntsman and Jones, said she will file a motion soon asking the 3rd District Court of Appeal to certify the overall same-sex case as one of great public importance and allow it to go directly to the Florida Supreme Court for a ruling that would affect the entire state rather than just Monroe County.

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“We’re not going to let the opposition dictate the pace. They could drag it out for months,” Restivo said. “We’re doing everything we can to move it along.”

Voters added the same-sex marriage ban to Florida’s constitution is 2008, defining marriage only as a union between one man and one woman.

Legal challenges to the amendment are also pending in Miami-Dade County and in federal court in Tallahassee, and supporters of gay marriage have won more than 20 legal decisions around the country in similar cases during the past year.

Bondi said in appealing the Monroe County ruling that the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately will decide the gay marriage question for states with bans such as Florida.

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