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Florida AG, governor say they will keep fighting to preserve gay marriage ban

Florida AG, governor say they will keep fighting to preserve gay marriage ban
Attorney General Pam Bondi (R-Fla.) and Gov. Rick Scott (R-Fla.)
Attorney General Pam Bondi (R-Fla.) and Gov. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) AP

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida will continue to fight to prohibit same-sex marriage even as other states are allowing it following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to ignore their appeals.

The court’s decision to turn away appeals from five states prompted the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida as well as lawyers representing same-sex couples on Tuesday to ask a federal judge in Tallahassee to allow same-sex marriages.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle this summer ruled Florida’s ban on gay marriage unconstitutional, but stayed the ruling until other cases around the country were resolved. He said at the time he would not allow any change until 90 days after the resolution of other cases that were pending with the Supreme Court.

But in his filing written on behalf of two couples, Jacksonville attorney William Sheppard wrote that his clients should not wait to enjoy the same constitutional rights as couples in other parts of the country.

“They are not lesser people,” Sheppard wrote in his motion. “Their constitutional rights derive from the same Constitution. Their rights should be as exercisable and as protected as in other American jurisdictions.”

There are multiple lawsuits challenging Florida’s ban, but nearly all of those are in state courts. If Hinkle lifted the stay in the federal lawsuit, it would allow gay couples to wed throughout the entire state.

But Bondi and Gov. Rick Scott say they want to keep intact the state’s ban, which was adopted by voters in 2008.

Bondi’s office said Tuesday that its lawyers would challenge the filing made by the ACLU, but did not elaborate.

Scott, whose agency heads are the ones who are actually being sued, defended Bondi’s actions and said that he was prepared to continue to maintain the legal battle even as other states begin to implement same-sex marriage.

“The attorney general is defending Florida’s constitution, which is her duty,” Scott said in a statement released by his office. “This is a matter that will be decided by the courts. Whatever the eventual outcome is from the courts, Florida will of course abide with it.”

The decision could also reverberate in this year’s elections, when Scott and Bondi will be on the ballot. Their Democratic rivals, Charlie Crist and George Sheldon, are opposed to the state’s ban — although Crist was in favor of it when he was a Republican and governor.

Court filings show that Bondi’s office wanted to delay any action on the federal lawsuit until after this year’s election.

After Florida appealed Hinkle’s ruling, the state’s solicitor general filed a motion with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals that asked to postpone filing any briefs in the case until Nov. 14 or 10 days after the election. Those briefs were initially due Oct. 15.

The motion, which was unopposed, argued that the delay was needed because the solicitor general has “numerous other appellate case assignments” including handling other gay marriage cases in state courts.

“The appeals will address significant constitutional issues and additional time is needed,” states the motion.

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