U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle overturned Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage in August. However, he also imposed a stay until January 5 to give the state time to appeal, which they did. Two weeks ago the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the state’s request to extend the stay.
Court Clerks across the state began preparing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples on January 6, but now a law firm is warning that may result in jail time.
The firm of Greenberg Traurig, legal counsel to the Florida Association of Court Clerks and Comptrollers, sent a memo out to warn clerks: If you issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple, you’ve committed a first-degree misdemeanor and could spend a year in the county jail.
The lawyers say that if a county was not specifically named in the lawsuit that struck down the ban, then they are not legally allowed to issue licenses.
Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, is appalled that counties are going to refuse to issue the licenses.
“Are local officials seriously preparing to arrest and criminally charge county clerks for enforcing a federal judge’s order? That’s preposterous.”
“When a federal judge declares a law unconstitutional, all public officials should cease enforcing that law. Period.”
In the 35 states that allow same-sex marriage, no clerk has ever been arrested for issuing a marriage license.
Kenneth A. Kent, Director of the Florida Association of Clerk Courts, issued a statement agreeing with the lawyers:
“At this time of uncertainty, the Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers have been advised by the association to follow the advice of our legal counsel and not issue same-sex marriage licenses until a binding order is issued by a court of proper jurisdiction.”
Florida’s Attorney General Pam Bondi is appealing to the Supreme Court. But so far the court has not taken any case on the issue.
Same-sex activists are not sitting back and allowing it to happen though. They’ve said that they will file lawsuits against any county that violates the constitutional rights of same-sex couples by denying them marriage licenses on Jan. 6 and after.
If a clerk is arrested, it will be a PR nightmare. It’s bad enough that Bondi is aggressively seeking to continue to deny equal rights to all Floridians. If even one official goes to jail for complying with a court ruling, Governor Skeletor is going to have a lot of esplainin’ to do.
Only in Floriduh can officials take a straight forward court ruling and turn it into such a hot mess.