Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Florida AG Asks Court To Rule On Marriage Equality

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi wants to get it over.  Via Steve Rothaus at the Miami Herald:

In a startling move Monday night, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said she wants the Florida Supreme Court to decide once-and-for-all whether same-sex couples can marry in the Sunshine State.

“That is unquestionably an important issue, and the Plaintiffs, the State, and all citizens deserve a definitive answer,” Bondi’s office wrote in a 6 p.m. filing to the state’s Third District Court of Appeal. “Until recently, the issue was squarely before the United States Supreme Court, and it appeared that a definitive answer was coming. … Unfortunately, the United States Supreme Court decided not to answer the question.”

Last Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court settled the gay marriage issue in Utah, Oklahoma and Virginia, along with Wisconsin and Indiana, when it announced justices would not hear appeals in federal court decisions allowing same-sex marriages in those states. Since then, same-sex couples have also been allowed to wed in North Carolina, Idaho and Alaska. Now, 59 percent of Americans live in at least 30 states were same-sex marriage is legal, according to Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT activist group.

On July 17, Monroe County Chief Circuit Judge Luis Garcia declared Florida’s 2008 gay-marriage ban unconstitutional, ruling against Bondi, whose office defended the ban. He ordered that a Key West couple, Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones, had the right to marry, but an automatic stay in the case prevented the nuptials. On July 25, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel also declared Florida’s ban unconstitutional, finding in favor of six same-sex couples who want to marry. Her ruling also was stayed pending appeal.

After those rulings Ms. Bondi put off appealing the rulings to the Florida Supreme Court by saying she wanted the U.S. Supreme Court to rule first.  That’s because she is up for re-election in November and did not want these cases front and center.  But with the decision from the Supreme Court to not take the case and let the lower court rulings stand, she saw the inevitable.

“Florida’s courts will therefore need to resolve the issue without further United States Supreme Court guidance,” she wrote in Monday’s filing. “Because there are cases pending in multiple districts, and because this is an issue of great public importance that now warrants immediate Florida Supreme Court review, the State respectfully suggests pass-through certification.”

There are still some hoops to jump through, but the court could take up the case and rule by next spring.  Of course by then it could all be over.