Florida clerks announce plans to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples

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Updated: 10:00 p.m. EST

MIAMI — Court clerks around Florida are beginning to announce plans to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples next week following a federal judge’s ruling.

Many clerks had previously been reluctant to issue the licenses, and some feared they might face criminal charges. But U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle’s ruling on New Year’s Day clarified that all 67 Florida clerks are obligated to begin issuing gay marriage licenses starting Tuesday.

Reversing its previous guidance, lawyers for the Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers said the clarification issued by Hinkle means that county clerks should issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples or run the risk of being sued.

“We are advising them it’s in their best interest to accept the authority that Judge Hinkle has given them and to begin issuing licenses,” Greenberg Traurig attorney Fred Baggett, the clerks association’s general counsel, told The News Service of Florida.

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Clerks around the state had a lengthy conference call late Friday morning, in which they were told that U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle had clarified his Washington County ruling to mean that county clerks should issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples or risk being sued.

According to the Gainsville Sun, all of the state’s clerks have said they will issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples beginning Tuesday.

Also Friday, an Osceola County judge dismissed a conservative group’s lawsuit challenging the county clerk’s right to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, saying Hinkle’s ruling made the lawsuit moot.

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