Following Friday's shocking decision by the U.S. Supreme Court
to deny Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi's attempt to put a stay on same-sex marriage licenses being issued in Florida after Jan. 5, nobody was quite certain exactly what to think or where to go or how exactly to prepare for gay marriage in Florida. On the one hand, there's the B.S. argument that the ruling by the court applied to only one of the state's 67 counties, Washington County in the panhandle, so there was the argument that because Florida statute still bans gay marriage (even if the constitutionality of said ban has been crushed over and over), clerks in other counties would likely face charges if they were to start issuing licenses after midnight on Jan. 6. Locally, Osceola County has already voted to open at 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 6,
statute be damned; Palm Beach State Attorney Dave Aronberg has also said he will cross lines, along with numerous other South Florida officials. Locally, incoming Clerk of Courts Tiffany Moore Russell has been less forthcoming on the issue, choosing (at least in advance of Friday's ruling) to side with the advice of statewide clerk advisory board Greenberg Traurig, which told clerks to look out, because they could face a year in jail and a $1,000 fine
Equality Florida released a statement this morning contesting that clerks should be worried. After all, are we enforcing cohabitation laws?
“Any Florida clerk who refuses to follow the Constitution's command and who withholds marriage licenses from couples once the stay expires is on the wrong side of history and the wrong side of the law,” said Shannon Minter, Legal Director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights said in the statement.
“A discredited memo from a law firm won't provide much protection against the risk of being sued for unconstitutional actions and being held liable for any damages — and attorney fees — incurred by couples as a result of withholding the freedom to marry. There is one Constitution, Florida is one state, and all Floridians are entitled to equal treatment throughout the state.”
We reached out to State Attorney Jeff Ashton for comment, and got the usual mumblings:
"The State Attorney does not announce in advance which cases he will prosecute. If he receives a complaint, that complaint will be investigated and evaluated, as other complaints are, and a charging decision will be made at the appropriate time," a spokeswoman said in an email.
Additionally, Equality Florida said that it now has had "hundreds of law Enforcement, first responders, clergy and businesses sign onto amici supporting Florida marriage ban challenge," which basically means that, like Mayor Buddy Dyer, these groups are joining the rallying call with actual court filings, hoping to put an end to some of this madness.
But, because it's so confusing, this afternoon, Miami-Dade Clerk of Courts Harvey Ruvin, who is the defendant in one of the state's marriage cases (Pareto
), filed the following motion for clarification as to whether the stay on his case will effectively be lifted by the Supreme Court ruling, too. Ruvin has said that he would in fact issue licenses if advised to. Also, we all need clarity.
The struggle, it seems, continues. MORE WHEN WE KNOW.