In a three-page order, a three-judge panel on the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals granted expedited review of a request from Florida officials to extend a stay as litigation proceeds against the state’s ban on gay nuptials, but determined the hold on Florida same-sex marriages should come to an end.
“Having reviewed and fully considered the Motion, the parties’ briefs, and the orders issued by the District Court in the proceedings below, the Court hereby denies Appellants’ Motion,” the order states. “The stay of preliminary injunctions entered by the District Court expires at the end of the day on January 5, 2014.”
The three-judge panel that lifted the stay consists of U.S. Circuit Judge Frank Hull, a Clinton appointee; U.S. Circuit Judge Charles Wilson; another Clinton appointee; and Judge Adalberto Jordan, an Obama appointee.
In August, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle struck down Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage, known as Amendment 2, invoking Supreme Court’s decisions against state bans on interracial marriage and the Defense of Marriages.
But, with the exception of marriage recognition for a lesbian widower whose spouse died of a terminal illness, the judge delayed the effective date of his ruling. Hinkle order a stay until federal appeals court lifted their stays on rulings against same-sex marriage bans in other states, and then for an additional 90 days afterward to allow the state to seek a longer stay from him or a higher court.
Because the Supreme Court in October refused to review decisions from three federal appeals court in favor of marriage equality, thereby dissolving the stays in those states, the hold on same-sex marriages in Florida was set to expire on Jan. 5.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, a Republican, had sought to extend the stay on gay nuptials in Florida up to Election Day and beyond, but the Eleventh Circuit order rebuffs her latest request to stop them from happening.
The state has another option: It could take up its stay request with the U.S Supreme Court. The request would be directed to U.S. Associate Justice Justice Clarence Thomas, who handles stay requests for the 11th Circuit. Thomas could decide the matter himself or refer it to the entire court.
Jennifer Meale, a Bondi spokesperson, said when asked about the next steps, “We are reviewing the ruling.”
If the stay request is made before the high court, it would be the first one from a judicial circuit that has not ruled on marriage equality since the Supreme Court refused federal appeals rulings in favor of same-sex marriage. Although the Supreme Court has recently denied stays on same-sex marriage in Idaho, South Carolina and Alaska, the lack of a federal appeals court ruling on Florida’s marriage law makes the high court’s actions on a stay more uncertain.