Gay Marriage Case Could Head to Florida Supreme Court

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Update: Associated Press
July 28, 2014

MIAMI (AP) -- Attorneys for two Key West men challenging the state's ban on same sex marriage want the Florida Supreme Court to take up the case.

The lawyers representing the Monroe County couple filed a motion Monday asking that the 3rd District Court of Appeal certify the case to the state's highest court.

The motion, if granted, would allow the case to bypass the appeals court and resolve the issue faster than usual.

Monroe County Circuit Judge Luis Garcia ruled earlier this month that the ban on same-sex marriage added to the state constitution by Florida voters in 2008 is discriminatory and violates gay people's right to equal treatment under the law.

A Miami-Dade County circuit judge last Friday also ruled that the ban was unconstitutional.

News Release: Associated Press
July 23, 2014

MIAMI (AP) -- Attorneys for a Florida Keys gay couple have turned to a state appeals court to lift a judge's order blocking them from getting married.

The Miami-based 3rd District Court of Appeal was asked Wednesday to overturn a Monroe County judge's decision earlier this week 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 and that marriage licenses could be issued to gays in Monroe County this week.

Attorney General Pam Bondi immediately filed notice of appeal, triggering an automatic stay that prevents any gay marriages. Garcia on Monday declined to lift the stay.

Voters added the same-sex marriage ban to Florida's constitution is 2008.

News Release: The News Service of Florida
July 21, 2014

THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, Gay couples won't be able to tie the knot in the Keys any time soon despite a Monroe County judge's decision last week striking down Florida's voter-approved constitutional ban on same-sex marriages.

Siding with Attorney General Pam Bondi and courts in other states, Circuit Judge Luis Garcia on Monday refused to lift a stay on his ruling that the prohibition violates due process and U.S. constitutional protections against discrimination.

Instead, Garcia ordered a hold on his Thursday ruling to stay in place until appeals are complete or he decides otherwise. The automatic stay was prompted by Bondi's appeal, filed almost immediately after Garcia issued his ruling last week.

Mirroring other court decisions, Garcia ruled in favor of Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones, two Key West bartenders who sued Monroe County Clerk of Court Amy Heavilin for refusing to grant them a marriage license.

In an emergency motion filed Monday morning, lawyers for the couple asked Garcia to order Heavilin to start issuing marriage licenses, arguing that the state has little chance of winning its appeal. Heavilin has said she would be prepared to move forward with gay marriages if the court orders her to do so, the lawyers wrote, and "couples are gathering in Monroe County today in anticipation of the issuance of marriage licenses."

Garcia's ruling on Florida's same-sex marriage ban is the latest in a string of victories for gay rights advocates since a milestone U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year in the United States v. Windsor case that overturned the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Courts in 19 other states have since struck down restrictions on same-sex marriages in lawsuits sparked by the Supreme Court ruling.

"Since Windsor was decided, an unbroken wave of federal and state courts across the country have concluded that state laws barring same-sex couples from marriage violate basic due process and equal protection principles," lawyers for Huntsman and Jones wrote in Monday's motion. "The state of Florida was unable to identify even a single substantive justification for (the Florida Marriage Protection Act) before this Court and is equally unlikely to succeed on appeal."

But Bondi's lawyers asked Garcia to "maintain the status quo" as other courts have done throughout the country. Both sides anticipate that the U.S. Supreme Court will ultimately decide the fate of same-sex marriage bans.

Garcia's ruling is the first court decision regarding the "Florida Marriage Protection Act," approved by 62 percent of voters in 2008. Six gay couples filed a similar lawsuit in Miami-Dade County, but a judge has not yet ruled in that case, and a separate federal case in Tallahassee is also pending.

News Release: Associated Press
July 21, 2014

MIAMI (AP) -- The attorney for a gay couple is asking a Florida Keys judge to lift a stay in his ruling that Florida's ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional.

The motion was filed Monday morning with Monroe County Circuit Judge Luis Garcia. The judge ruled last week that the ban on same-sex marriage added to the state constitution by Florida voters in 2008 is discriminatory and violates gay people's right to equal treatment under the law.

Garcia ruled marriage licenses could be issued in Monroe County beginning Tuesday. That was blocked by an automatic stay triggered when Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi filed notice of the state's appeal.

It wasn't immediately clear when Garcia might rule.

Lawsuits challenging Florida's gay marriage ban are also pending in Miami-Dade County and Tallahassee federal court.

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