This week, Florida became the 36th state in the U.S. to recognize marriage between same-sex couples. Clerk of Court offices in all of Florida’s 67 counties began offering marriage licenses to gay couples on Jan. 6, following a ruling by U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle that found that the state’s marriage ban violates the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection and due process requirements. The challenge came in a lawsuit filed by the ACLU on behalf of eight same-sex couples and a Fort Myers widow and another lawsuit filed on behalf of two couples by attorneys in Jacksonville. A temporary stay on that ruling expired Jan. 5, opening the door to legalized same-sex marriage.
Initially, clerk of court offices faced confusion over the scope of the federal court ruling until Jan. 1, when Judge Hinkle issued an order clarifying that his ruling was intended to apply to the entire state.
As gay couples have now begun lining up at clerk of court offices around the state to apply for marriage licenses, supporters are celebrating the move as a step toward equality for members of Florida’s LGBT community. Meanwhile, opponents of same-sex marriage say the ruling contradicts the will of Florida voters who approved a state constitutional amendment in 2008 defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Opponents vow to continue their fight until the U.S. Supreme Court makes a ruling on gay marriage. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has filed an appeal in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, although no date has yet been set for a hearing. We explore the legal and political history of how same-sex marriage became legal in Florida, the potential impacts of same-sex marriage in Florida, and what’s next in the legal battle.