Federal judge won’t lift stay in Florida same-sex marriage ruling

Marriage equality supports gather outside a Florida courthouse on July 2, 2014. CURT ANDERSON [ap]

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A Florida federal judge refused on Wednesday to lift a stay of his ruling in a lawsuit challenging the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, meaning no gay weddings can take place for now while state officials continue to pursue an appeal.

Marriage equality supports gather outside a Florida courthouse on July 2, 2014.

Marriage equality supports gather outside a Florida courthouse on July 2, 2014.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle in Tallahassee ruled that the stay would remain in effect through Jan. 5. Like numerous other judges around the country, Hinkle in August ruled the Florida gay marriage ban violated the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection. But he stayed the effect of his decision, hoping to avoid confusion as the case works its way through the legal system.

Attorney General Pam Bondi is seeking a review of the decision by the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Gay marriage proponents had asked Hinkle to lift the stay, which would have allowed gay marriages to begin despite the appeal.

“This would leave the 11th Circuit insufficient time to make a considered judgment on whether the stay should remain in place and thus would be inconsistent with the public interest in implementing just once the constitutional decision on same-sex marriage in Florida,” Hinkle wrote.

Bondi is also appealing decisions by Florida state judges declaring the same-sex ban unconstitutional on similar grounds. The ban was added to the Florida Constitution by voters in 2008.

Hinkle also denied Bondi’s request to leave the stay in place as long as the 11th Circuit is considering Florida’s appeal, setting instead the January deadline. The judge said that would mean unnecessary delay, especially considering “the unbroken line of circuit decisions striking down bans on same-sex marriage.”

“No circuit that has decided the same-sex marriage issue on the merits has stayed its ruling,” the judge added.

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The same-sex marriage ban’s challengers, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, asked Hinkle to dissolve the stay after the U.S. Supreme Court opted in October to let stand federal appeals court rulings that cleared the way for gay marriage in five states.

If the Supreme Court decides not to issue a broad ruling on the subject, Hinkle said that means whatever the 11th Circuit decides may settle the issue for Florida, Alabama and Georgia.

“We are disappointed that the day in which all Florida families are treated with fairness and dignity under the law is not happening sooner, but that day is still coming,” said Daniel Tilley, lead attorney for the ACLU. “We look forward to representing our clients before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and arguing that the time has come for Florida’s hurtful and discriminatory marriage ban to be once and for all brought to an end.”

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