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What is the state of same-sex marriage in Florida?

Back on July 17 and July 25, two circuit court judges in Florida announced rulings that were supposed to change the course of marriage law in our state for years to come. The rulings, as many of our Tampa readers probably remember, struck down the 2008 ban on same-sex marriage in the state. This was supposed to pave the way for lawful same-sex unions in the state as well as recognize marriage ceremonies that had been performed in other states and in Canada.

But changes to the law were put on hold when Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi filed a formal appeal with the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. Her appeal put a stay on any changes to the law, which will remain in place until January 5, 2015.

So where does this leave the issue of same-sex marriage in Florida?

According to Freedom to Marry, four lower court judges have already deemed the marriage ban unconstitutional. From what we have seen in other states where courts have made similar rulings, this led to a lifting of same-sex marriage bans, making way for marriages and divorces alike. Clearing the ban has also resolved many of the family law issues same-sex couples were having including disputes over child custody and adoption.

But the current stay on the rulings puts Florida residents in a sort of legal limbo. Although the courts feel that the ban is unconstitutional and against the law, they cannot force county clerks to issue marriage licenses without first receiving a ruling from the Third Circuit Court.

As you may or may not know, this court of appeals has jurisdiction over the lower courts. This means if the higher court rules in opposition of same-sex couples and remands the cases back to the lower courts, then these lower courts may have to reverse their decisions.

But while same-sex couples may not be allowed to marry before the end of 2014, next year may bring different news. This will of course depend on if the Third Circuit Court agrees with the four lower court decisions regarding the unconstitutionality of the ban.

Source: CBS Miami, "Florida AG Asks Appeals Court To Overrule Same-Sex Marriage Rulings," Nov. 18, 2014

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