Well, whattayaknow. Via Steve Rothaus:
Same-sex couples in Florida could begin marrying next month, after a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that a stay in the state’s gay-marriage ban case will be lifted at the end of the day Jan. 5.
In a two-page ruling, a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta turned down a request by Florida’s secretaries of health and management services and the clerk of the court in the Panhandle’s Washington County to extend the stay. A federal judge based in Tallahassee ruled in August that the state’s gay-marriage ban is unconstitutional, but stayed his decision until Jan. 5 to give the state time to appeal.
“This is a clear victory for us because it finds the harm is being done to the people, not the state,” said Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, which is representing same-sex couples from throughout Florida and gay-rights group SAVE, who sued to have out-of-state same-sex marriages recognized in the Sunshine State.
“It means that relief is finally in sight for the same-sex married couples suffering under Florida’s refusal to recognize their legal unions,” SAVE executive director Tony Lima said in a statement.
On Aug. 21, U.S. Judge Robert L. Hinkle of Tallahassee threw out the gay-marriage ban in Florida’s Constitution — which was approved by 62 percent of voters in 2008 — calling it “an obvious pretext for discrimination.”
“Liberty, tolerance, and respect are not zero-sum concepts,” Hinkle wrote at the time. “Those who enter opposite-sex marriages are harmed not at all when others, including these plaintiffs, are given the liberty to choose their own life partners and are shown the respect that comes with formal marriage.” He stayed his decision to give Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi time to appeal.
Bondi then asked the appeals court — which has yet to set a date to hear the case — to keep the stay in place past Jan. 5 until the court decides on the merits.
“We are reviewing the ruling,” Bondi spokeswoman Jennifer Meale wrote Wednesday in an email to the Miami Herald.
John Stemberger, president of the Florida Family Policy Council, which supported the 2008 constitutional amendment, blasted the court decision.
“The court today is wrong,” he said. “The court was also wrong years ago in Dred Scott when it ruled that blacks were not persons. The courts will never have the final word on an institution as fundamental to the human experience as marriage. You simply cannot build a civilization without natural marriage.”
Ron Saunders, attorney for Monroe County Court Clerk Amy Heavilin, said the office is ready to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
“We’ve been ready,” Saunders said. “We’ve had to change the vows from husband and wife, made sure everyone knew the procedures. . . . We’re ready to do whatever is legal.”
Monroe County is the Florida Keys and Key West. They’ve been ready for this for a long time.
Of course the homophobes are upset, but then the concept of fundamental rights trumping the voters is an alien concept to them, and they get their tails all puffed up when an “activist judge” rules for anyone but them.
The next step is for the courts to turn down the next appeal. Then, boys, get the corsages and the rings.