Sunday, December 21, 2014

Supreme Court Refuses To Delay Florida Marriage Equality From Going Into Effect Jan. 5

Wow! The United States Supreme Court has denied Florida's request for a stay of a federal district court judge's decision ruling that Florida's 2006 state constitutional amendment banning marriage equality violates the federal constitution. The Court said that Justices Thomas and Scalia would have granted the petition for a stay.

This is a VERY big deal, because this is the first time the High Court has let marriages go into effect as a result of a mere district court decision, when there was no precedent for marriage equality in the controlling appellate circuit of jurisdiction. Florida is in the 11th Circuit, and that appellate circuit has not ruled in favor of marriage equality (and in fact has some anti-gay decision in its not too recent past). The current legal skirmish the Supreme Court decided was about what should happen while the merits of the state's appeal get determined. Almost a year ago, in Utah's marriage equality case, the Supreme Court unanimously granted a stay putting a federal district court decision in Kitchen v Herbert on hold while the 10th Circuit was considering that appeal. In both cases the appellate circuit had refused to grant the stay while they considered the appeal and the state appealed to the Supreme Court in both cases. In the Utah case, the 10th Appellate Circuit ruled against the state on the merits on appeal. Ultimately, the Supreme Court refused to hear Utah's appeal of that loss, allowing marriage equality to go into effect in the 4th, 10th and 7th circuits. The denial of a stay in Armstrong v. Brenner (the Florida case) demonstrates how swiftly the tide has turned in favor of marriage equality, even at the Supreme Court level. 11 months ago they granted a similar petition, 9-0, on Friday they denied it 2-7.

The Washington Blade reports:
In August, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle ruled against the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, known as Amendment 2, but placed a stay on his order until 91 days passed after the appeals process was completed in the Utah, Oklahoma and Virginia marriage cases. When the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review these cases, it set for date for same-sex couples to be able to marry in Florida starting Jan. 5. 
Bondi tried to extend the stay on the same-sex marriages as she continued to defend the law in court, but her requests were by denied by the district court as well as the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which ordered the stay to be lifted “at the end of the day” on Jan. 5.  
In a statement, Bondi said Florida will acquiesce to the Supreme Court’s decision to allow the stay to expire after Jan. 5 as initially ordered by the district court. 
Hat/tip to Equality On Trial

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