Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Flurry of Court Filings Seeks To Clarify Status of Same-Sex Marriage In Florida

Florida counties find themselves uncertain about the legality of same-sex marriage in the state.  In August, in Grimsley v. Scott, a Florida federal district court issued a preliminary injunction barring various state officials from enforcing the state's ban on same-sex marriage, and ordering the Clerk of Court of Washington County, Florida to issue marriage licenses to a same-sex couple that brought the lawsuit. The court temporarily stayed these orders, but with the denial of further stays by higher courts (see prior posting), the orders are scheduled to take effect on Jan. 5. That leaves in some confusion the effect of the court's injunction.  On Dec. 24, the Clerk of Washington County filed an Emergency Motion for Clarification with the court asking it whether the court's injunction means that marriage licenses must be granted to all same-sex couples, or only to the couple specifically named in the injunction.

In response, the ACLU filed a legal memo (full text) arguing that because the court found Florida's same-sex marriage ban facially unconstitutional, the order means that all county clerks must issue marriage licenses to all same-sex couples. The court also ordered the state to respond to the motion for clarification. In its response (full text), the Attorney General said that the court is best situated to determine the reach of its own order.

Meanwhile this week an advocacy group filed state court lawsuits against two separate sets of local Florida officials seeking to prevent them from issuing licenses or performing same-sex marriages after Jan. 5. The complaint (full text) in Florida Family Action, Inc. v. Ramirez, (FL Cir. Ct., filed 12/29/2014), seeks a writ of mandamus ordering the Osceola County Clerk to deny any application for marriage license by same-sex couples.  The complaint (full text) in Florida Family Action, Inc. v. Dyer, (FL Cir. Ct., filed 12/30/2014) seeks a writ of mandamus barring the mayor of Orlando and a local judge from performing same-sex wedding ceremonies.  In both cases, the officials had expressed their intent to move ahead with same-sex marriages.