EMBARGOED ACLU Statement on Beginning of Marriages for Same-Sex Couples in Florida

gay-flags_00247219-360x300Today, following the expiration of a stay on a federal ruling striking down Florida’s ban on marriages for same-sex couples as unconstitutional, same-sex couples throughout the State of Florida are able to marry and have their marriages recognized by the State.

The end of exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage in Florida is the result of an August 21st ruling by U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle finding the marriage ban unconstitutional in two cases: one brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida on behalf of eight married same-sex couples, a Fort Myers widow, and SAVE, South Florida’s largest LGBT rights organization; the other by Jacksonville attorneys William Sheppard and Sam Jacobson on behalf of two couples. A temporary stay on that ruling expired at the end of the day on January 5th.

Marriages began in Miami-Dade County on January 5th when Miami-Dade County circuit judge Sarah Zabel lifted the stay on her ruling in a case in which six same-sex couples and the Equality Florida Institute, represented by attorneys for the National Center for Lesbian Rights and several attorneys in private practice, challenged the marriage ban. Judge Zabel lifted the stay following a motion by Miami-Dade County Clerk Harvey Rubin in response to Judge Hinkle’s order.

Today, clerks in Florida’s 66 other counties are expected to start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, with several clerks opening early to do so and some even planning on issuing marriage licenses at midnight.

Though the stay is lifted as of today and, thus, marriages of same-sex couples will be performed and out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples will be recognized by Florida officials, the case continues in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals as a result of Attorney General Pam Bondi’s appeal of Judge Hinkle’s ruling. No date has been set for a hearing in the appeal by the Attorney General.

Responding to the start of marriages in Florida, ACLU of Florida LGBT rights staff attorney Daniel Tilley stated:

“Today is a day for celebration throughout Florida. Many Florida couples have waited years – in some cases decades – for the chance to marry the person they love and have that marriage recognized by the state they call home. Now that Florida has become the 36th marriage equality state, those couples can finally access the protections and dignity that come with marriage.

“This victory would not be possible without the Floridians we represented, who, by bravely stepping forward and sharing their stories of how Florida’s marriage ban harmed them, made it clear to Judge Hinkle that this hurtful and discriminatory law could not stand. Nor would it have been possible without the decades of advocacy for justice for LGBT people both here in Florida and across the country.

“Today, we celebrate the beginning of a fairer Florida and the end of a ban that has harmed too many for too long. Although this fight is not yet over, we are confident that marriage is here to stay in Florida and that our efforts in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and elsewhere will be victorious and end the legal battle once and for all.”

Attorneys from the ACLU and the ACLU of Florida and Stephen F. Rosenthal of Podhurst Orseck, P.A. represent the plaintiffs in one of the two federal lawsuits that resulted in the ruling that struck down Florida’s marriage ban.

More information on the ACLU’s case, including bios of the plaintiffs, and an FAQ for couples seeking to marry, is available at: www.aclufl.org/marriageequality

About the ACLU of Florida

The ACLU of Florida is freedom’s watchdog, working daily in the courts, legislatures and communities to defend individual rights and personal freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. For additional information, visit our web site at: www.aclufl.org


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