FLORIDA: County Clerks Legal Group Claims Federal Marriage Equality Ruling Applies In Only One County

As we await the SCOTUS decision on yesterday’s marriage stay extension demand by Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, the legal firm that represents the state’s 67 county clerks today declared that the federal ruling that overturned the ban only applies in the county in which it was issued. The firm warns that clerks outside of Washington County risk arrest if they issue any same-sex marriage licenses after (and if) the stay is allowed to expire on January 5th.

Lawyers for the Florida Association of Court Clerks and Comptrollers said in a statement today that Washington County is the only place named in the federal lawsuit. Clerks in all other counties, according to the association, aren’t bound by U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle’s ruling in August that the gay marriage ban is unconstitutional. In addition, the association said Florida’s same-sex marriage ban enacted by voters in 2008 is unique because clerk employees who issue a marriage license to a gay couple without authorization could face misdemeanor criminal charges. “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,” said Kenneth A. Kent, executive director of the clerks association.

Judges in Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade, and Monroe counties have also ruled against Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage, but those cases have been put on hold pending the federal appeal now before the Eleventh Circuit Court.