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Judge Clears Way for FL Same-Sex Couples to Marry

PHOTO: Florida's county clerks had questions about whether they could legally issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but a New Year's Day court decision has cleared the way. Photo credit: Stefano Bolognini/Wikimedia Commons.
PHOTO: Florida's county clerks had questions about whether they could legally issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but a New Year's Day court decision has cleared the way. Photo credit: Stefano Bolognini/Wikimedia Commons.
January 5, 2015

MIAMI, Fla. - On New Year's Day, Judge Robert Hinkle ruled that county clerks are not bound by Florida's ban on same-sex marriage, and can issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, starting tomorrow (Tues., Jan. 6).

The judge had overturned Florida's 2008 constitutional ban on same-sex marriage last summer, but lawyers for the state's county clerks had warned they might be criminally liable if they issued licenses to same-sex couples. The Jan. 1 ruling clarified the issue.

Now, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi – who has pledged to uphold the ban approved by voters six years ago – says she won't stand in the way.

Equality Florida has been at the center of the fight to overturn the ban. Executive Director Nadine Smith says times and attitudes are much different in the Sunshine State.

"Florida has changed since 2008," says Smith. "The majority of Floridians now support marriage equality. Top businesses in our state, clergy, police and first responders have filed Amicus briefs all saying it's time for this ban to end."

Smith calls the decision "an issue of fundamental rights."

This week, Florida joins 35 other states that also have legalized same-sex marriage. While 2015 may be a milestone year for Florida same-sex couples planning to wed, Smith says she hopes it won't be such a big deal in the long run.

"January 6 will be a day of celebration, but it will quickly become unremarkable and quite boring to talk about gay people getting married," she says.

An estimated 50,000 same-sex couples live in Florida. A recent study by The Williams Institute, a think tank on gender issues at the University of California at Los Angeles Law School, reports half of them would choose to marry in the next three years. The study says that would generate an estimated $182 million in economic activity in the state, and add thousands of potential jobs.

Phil Latzman, Public News Service - FL