Same-sex couples may begin to marry in Florida after Jan. 5 as a result of a district court ruling striking down the ban on same-sex marriage in the state, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered late Friday.
In a one-page order, the court announced it has rejected the request from Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, a Republican, to place a hold on same-sex marriage in the state beyond Jan. 5 as litigation seeking the right for same-sex couples to marry in Florida continues on appeal.
Although the request was submitted to U.S. Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, who’s responsible for stay requests in the Eleventh Circuit, the order indicates that he referred the matter to the entire court, where the stay was subsequently denied. However, the order indicates Thomas and U.S. Associate Justice Antonin Scalia would have granted the stay for the continuation of the appeals process.
In August, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle ruled against the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, known as Amendment 2, but placed a stay on his order until 91 days passed after the appeals process was completed in the Utah, Oklahoma and Virginia marriage cases. When the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review these cases, it set for date for same-sex couples to be able to marry in Florida starting Jan. 5.
Bondi tried to extend the stay on the same-sex marriages as she continued to defend the law in court, but her requests were by denied by the district court as well as the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which ordered the stay to be lifted “at the end of the day” on Jan. 5.
In a statement, Bondi said Florida will acquiesce to the Supreme Court’s decision to allow the stay to expire after Jan. 5 as initially ordered by the district court.
“Tonight, the United States Supreme Court denied the State’s request for a stay in the case before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals,” Bondi said. “Regardless of the ruling it has always been our goal to have uniformity throughout Florida until the final resolution of the numerous challenges to the voter-approved constitutional amendment on marriage. Nonetheless, the Supreme Court has now spoken, and the stay will end on Jan. 5.”
The refusal from the Supreme Court to stay same-sex marriages in Florida is noteworthy because although justices have denied similar requests to halt same-sex marriages in Alaska, Idaho, South Carolina and Kansas, they’ve never done so before in a state where a federal appeals court has yet to rule on the issue. The decision with regard to Florida could be a sign the Supreme Court is ready to rule in favor of nationwide marriage equality no matter what the federal appeals courts decide in the interim.