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Bondi Asks Supreme Court To Keep Gay Marriage On Hold

Pam Bondi
State of Florida

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi on Monday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to keep in place a hold on gay marriage, which is set to begin in early January unless an extension of the state's ban is approved.

Bondi's request came less than two weeks after a federal appeals court rejected her effort to at least temporarily extend the gay-marriage prohibition, which U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle ruled in August was unconstitutional. Hinkle placed a stay on his decision to allow time for appeals in three cases then pending before the Supreme Court, but that stay is scheduled to expire at the end of the day Jan. 5.

Bondi asked the Supreme Court to keep the hold in place until Florida's appeals run out or until the justices rule in similar cases. The Republican attorney general is asking justices to intervene to avoid confusion and to "maintain uniformity," her spokeswoman Jenn Meale said in a memo accompanying the filing.

"In a continuation of the effort to maintain uniformity and order throughout Florida until final resolution of the numerous challenges to the voter-approved constitutional amendment on marriage, the Attorney General’s Office filed with the United States Supreme Court an application to extend the stay. If the Supreme Court grants the application, the stay will remain in place during the state's appeal. If the Supreme Court denies the stay, then the preliminary injunction will become effective at the end of the day on Jan. 5, 2015," Meale wrote.

In the 70-page filing, Bondi's lawyers wrote that the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' denial of an extension Dec. 3 "has created statewide confusion" and that lifting the stay could lead to county clerks throughout the state issuing marriage licenses to gay couples although only one Florida county — Washington — was a party to the federal lawsuit.

"The constitutional issue is a serious one, and it deserves appellate review before the injunctions (against the gay-marriage ban) should become effective," Florida Solicitor General Allen Winsor wrote.

A series of federal appeals-court decisions have struck down similar gay-marriage bans in other states, and the U.S. Supreme Court in October declined to take up the issue. But, as she did when she asked the 11th Circuit for an extension of the stay, Bondi pointed to a decision in November by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld bans in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.

The conflicting appellate rulings indicate that the Supreme Court is more likely to take up the issue now, Bondi's lawyers wrote in Monday's filing.

But the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, which represents some of the plaintiffs in combined cases involved in Hinkle's ruling, blasted Bondi for pursuing the emergency stay.

"It is unsurprising, given how hard Governor Scott, his appointees, and Attorney General Bondi have fought to keep loving and committed couples from getting married and having their marriages recognized in Florida, that they would keep up this dead-end fight. But with just weeks until the ruling is scheduled to go into effect, it is disappointing," ACLU of Florida lawyer Daniel Tilley said in a statement. "Florida families have waited long enough for the end of a ban that a federal court has declared unconstitutional. Since October, the Supreme Court has refused all requests to stay rulings striking down the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage in other states. We are hopeful they will do the same here so that loving couples and their children can get the protections for which they have waited so long."