Federal judge says Flordia clerks have legal duty to issue same-sex marriage licenses News
Federal judge says Flordia clerks have legal duty to issue same-sex marriage licenses

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of Florida [official website] ruled [order] Thursday that Florida county clerks have a legal duty to issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples, while also noting that they are not ordered to do so. This ruling clarifies a stay on the August district court decision [opinion, PDF] that declared the Florida same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional [JURIST report]. US District Judge Robert L. Hinkle had stayed the decision to allow the defendants time to appeal the ruling and seek a further stay. The appeal reached the US Supreme Court, and the court declined to extend the stay [JURIST report], allowing the district court ruling to take effect. As a result of this Supreme Court action, Hinkle stated:

The preliminary injunction now in effect thus does not require the Clerk to issue licenses to other applicants. But as set out in the order that announced issuance of the preliminary injunction, the Constitution requires the Clerk to issue such licenses. As in any other instance involving parties not now before the court, the Clerk’s obligation to follow the law arises from sources other than the preliminary injunction.

The legal duty begins when the stay expires at the end of the day on January 5. American Civil Liberties Union of Florida [advocacy website] LGBT rights attorney Daniel Tilley praised the ruling, saying [press release], “We expect all clerks to respect the ruling. But if not, we are committed to ensuring marriage equality in all 67 counties in Florida and we would like to hear from any couples that are wrongfully denied a license after the stay expires.”

Since the Supreme Court struck down [JURIST report] section three of the Defense of Marriage Act [text] in June 2013, numerous state and federal courts have declared state same-sex marriage bans [JURIST backgrounder] unconstitutional. In October the Supreme Court declined to hear [JURIST report] seven pending same-sex marriage cases, allowing those appeals court rulings to stand and effectively legalizing same-sex marriage in several states. The Supreme Court has yet to issue a nationwide ruling on same-sex marriage. In certain states, the Supreme Court’s avoidance has created confusion and legal uncertainty [JURIST op-ed]. However, the current circuit split increases the likelihood that the Supreme Court will issue a ruling in regards to same-sex marriage.