Same-sex couples are in legal limbo amid debate whether a federal judge's ruling that lifted Florida’s ban on gay marriages can be applied statewide.
The office of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said Monday that Hinkle must decide if his order overturning the state’s gay marriage ban applies to the entire state, according to a court filing.
Hinkle previously ruled that the state’s same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional. No higher court overruled Hinkle, which means his decision will go into place starting on January 6.
But since the U.S. Supreme Court decided to not take up an appeal of Hinkle’s ruling, the question that has dominated the gay marriage discussion in the Sunshine State is whether Hinkle’s ruling applied to all of Florida’s 67 counties, or only Washington County where the lawsuit was filed.
“If the Court intends for paragraph 4 to bind a Florida clerk of court (or all Florida clerks of court), additional specificity may be appropriate to place any such clerk on proper notice,” Bondi’s office said in a court filing Monday night.
The filing continued, “If the Court intends the injunction to have effect beyond those that appear on its face…the Court may wish provide appropriate clarification (sic).”
The association representing Florida's clerks issued an opinion that the ruling doesn't apply to other counties, and said clerks can be prosecuted for violating the law if they issue same-sex marriage licenses. Most clerks are following that advice.
In Miami, Judge Sarah Zabel set a hearing for next Monday to address Miami-Dade Clerk of the Court Harvey Ruvin’s motion seeking clarification on the issue. Ruvin is asking whether or not he can issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples on January 6, when Judge Hinkle’s ruling goes into place.
Judge Zabel has previously ruled against the gay marriage ban and could rule that the marriage ban is overturned in only Miami-Dade County, according to Equality Florida.
The AP recently conducted a survey and out of 53 clerks who responded, 46 said they wouldn’t grant marriage licenses to same-sex coupled because they lacked the legal authority.
Some clerks are considering sending same-sex couples to county judges, who are also allowed to issue marriage licenses under Florida law. County judges can waive some marriage-license requirements, such as the three-day waiting period or the restriction on a minor getting married.
Hinkle’s ultimate decision will either end the gay marriage ban in Washington County, or the entire state of Florida. Hinkle’s initial stay of his decision overturning gay marriage ends at midnight on January 5th.