Florida Marriage Equality Likely Moving Forward

The battle for equal rights for the LGBT community just took a new turn, but one that’s more about posturing than principle or progress. Back in November of this year, the United States Supreme Court was put on notice the issue of gay marriage would again be on its docket, courtesy of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The reason for this development is because it directly conflicts with a series of rulings issued by a federal appeals court.

Now, a new twist has come into play. A federal judge issued a decision that declares that the ban Florida has against gay marriage is unconstitutional. That came after the United States Supreme Court said that gay marriage can go forward because specific sections of The Defense of Marriage Act are not constitutionally permissible. To top it all off, a judge has ordered the Florida state attorney general’s office to clarify its position about how it will proceed. In reaction, Pam Bondi filed a motion with U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle. It asks for clarification about the last development in the fight for equal rights, which ironically,  was answered by the same judge.

Florida Marriage Equality Likely to be Granted

Though all of these events seem confusing, it really comes down to the question of whether or not equal rights are just that. In the current status, marriage licenses for same-sex couples will be available starting on January 6, 2015. Judge Hinkle is the jurist who ruled that the statewide ban on gay marriage isn’t constitutional. All 67 county clerks are now questioning the what the latest development means.

“Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is asking a federal judge to clarify whether clerks in all counties can issue marriage licenses to gay couples starting next week. Bondi’s office filed the motion with U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle late Monday. Hinkle previously ruled that Florida’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional. He stayed his ruling, but the stay is scheduled to expire Jan. 5.” —Associated Press

Of the 67 counties in the state of Florida, only one, Washington, states it will issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. That’s because it is the only one named in the lawsuit in question. Meanwhile, 46 county clerks have stated they will not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, 6 county clerks say they don’t know what they will do, and 13 haven’t yet answered. All of this might be moot come summer, when the U.S. Supreme Court takes the matter up again.

The bottom line is, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to take-up the case from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals because it is the only venue which has ruled to uphold the ban on same-sex marriage. That’s a positive sign because several other circuit court of appeals have ruled state bans are not constitutional. With so much momentum and polling in favor of granting equal protections to the LGBT community, it is more likely than not that marriage equality will be a reality.

Though there will be opposition, it isn’t going to be as difficult a challenge to put Florida and a few other states on the path to provide legal protections that are offered in 35 states.