Congrats to Amy and Kelly — and all the other Florida newlyweds

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Florida newlyweds Amy and Kelly

My friends Amy and Kelly were among the 30 Florida couples tapped to receive their marriage license immediately after midnight Jan. 5 — so, on Jan. 6 — when the stay expired on Judge Robert Hinkle’s ruling declaring the Florida marriage equality ban unconstitutional. Because of legal wrangling over to whom Hinkle’s order applied, the Orlando county clerk guaranteed only 30 marriage licenses at first.

As it turned out, the stay on a second pro-marriage-equality ruling was lifted on Jan. 5, and Hinkle issued an order making it clear that his ruling applied to everyone in every Florida county. So Amy and Kelly and the other 29 couples were not the first to get their licenses and exchange vows. But that didn’t make their ceremony any less touching and wonderful.

The CENTER — LGBT Community Center of Central Florida hosted a wedding for the 30 couples getting their licenses Jan. 6 in Orlando, and as Amy said on Facebook, she and Kelly never expected to be able to get married in such style. She has given me permission to share this photo of them, above, and this video, below, of the mass wedding. In the video, Amy and Kelly are the first couple in the procession, and they are both wearing white.

So congrats, Amy and Kelly, and all the other happy couples in Florida. I can’t wait til Texas gets on the bandwagon and my spouse and I get to make it legal.

—  Tammye Nash

First Florida marriage license issued; couples marrying now

plaintiffs

Plaintiff couples in Pareto v. Ruvin are, from left, Todd and Jeffrey Delmay, Cathy Pareto and Karla Arguello, Vanessa and Melanie Alenier, and Don Johnston and Jorge Diaz. Pareto and Arguello received the first marriage license issued to a same-sex couple in Florida.

Karla Arguello and Cathy Pareto, one of six plaintiff couples in the marriage equality case Pareto v. Ruvin, today became the first same-sex couple to receive a marriage license in Florida.

The two applied for the license this morning (Monday, Jan. 5), as soon as Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel lifted her stay of her own ruling in the case, in which she declared the Florida marriage equality ban unconstitutional.

Judge Zabel has agreed to marry the plaintiff couples who wish to marry today, including Arguello and Pareto, and Jeff and Todd Delmay.

The plaintiffs in the case are represented by the law firm Carlton Fields Jorden Burt, Elizabeth F. Schwartz, Mary B. Meeks, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR).

—  Tammye Nash

Judge rules all Florida county clerks must issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples

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Judge Robert Hinkle

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle today issued a ruling stating that all Florida county clerks must issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Hinkle ruled last August that Florida’s ban on legally recognizing same-sex marriages was unconstitutional. Hinkle was ruling in two cases — one brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida on behalf of eight couples, a Fort Myers widow, and SAVE, South Florida’s largest LGBT rights organization; the other by Jacksonville attorneys William Sheppard and Sam Jacobson on behalf of two couples.

Hinkle stayed his own ruling pending appeals. That stay was set to expire at midnight on Jan. 5, and when the U.S. Supreme Court last week refused to extend that stay, it cleared the way for same-sex marriages to begin in Florida on Tuesday, Jan. 6.

Some county clerks, however, said they would not issue licenses to same-sex couples because Hinkle’s ruling applied only to the Washington County clerk of court, who was named as a defendant in the case. The Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers released a legal memo earlier in December that Hinkle’s ruling only applied to marriage licenses issued by the clerk in Washington County and did not open the door for clerks in other parts of the state to issue licenses to same-sex couples and that clerks could face prosecution if they do so.

The Washington County clerk at the time the lawsuit was filed was Harold Bazzel. Bazzel was replaced by Lora Bell, elected in November, and Bell had asked Hinkle for a clarification on his ruling.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, Hinkle wrote: “Reasonable people can debate whether [his August ruling] was correct and who it binds. There should be no debate, however, on the question whether a clerk of court may follow the ruling, even for marriage-license applicants who are not parties to this case.”

Hinkle warned that clerks who refuse to issue licenses to gay couples should “take note” that they are essentially inviting lawsuits and legal fees, he said, adding, “History records no shortage of instances when state officials defied federal court orders on issues of federal constitutional law. Happily, there are many more instances when responsible officials followed the law, like it or not.”

After Hinkle issued his clarification today (Jan. 1), ACLU of Florida LGBT Rights Staff Attorney Daniel Tilley said, “Clerks who were waiting for clarification from the court as to their obligations now have that clarity and should prepare to issue marriage licenses to couples in their counties waiting to marry as soon as the stay expires.”

He added, “We expect all clerks to respect the ruling.  But if not, we are committed to ensuring marriage equality in all 67 counties in Florida and we would like to hear from any couples that are wrongfully denied a license after the stay expires.”

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who has battled marriage equality every step of the way, issued a written statement today saying that her office, which has defended the state’s same-sex marriage ban, would not “stand in the way as clerks of court determine how to proceed.”

Read Hinkle’s order issued today here.

—  Tammye Nash

This week in marriage equality

marriage-scales-of-justiceIndiana:

A federal judge ruled that Indiana must recognize out-of-state marriages, the last of the five marriage equality cases in Indiana that had not received a ruling. All five cases struck down any ban on same-sex marriage. The ruling is stayed pending appeal. Read more here.

Idaho:

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied Idaho’s request to appeal en banc (or before all of the court’s judges) a recent ruling overturning the state’s same-sex marriage ban. The case Latta v. Otter (otter–heehee!) was brought before the district court Judge Candy Dale this year by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and private attorneys. Dale ruled in their favor. Of note: the case will be heard concurrently with cases from Nevada and Hawaii, which also follow under the ninth court’s jurisdiction.

Florida:

Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage was ruled unconstitutional today for a fifth time. The difference is that this time, a U.S. District Court made the ruling, so it applies to the entire state. The previous four rulings were in county courts and those rulings applied only to those counties. The ruling is stayed pending appeal.

Department of Veterans Affairs:

Curve ball! The VA isn’t a state, but it’s being sued over not recognizing the partners of veterans in states that don’t recognize same-sex marriage. The case AMPA v. McDonald was brought by Lambda Legal and others, was filed on behalf of the American Military Partner Association.

Australia:

Waaaaaaay down south, Australia’s senate is considering a bill that would permit the country to realize recognition of foreign same-sex marriages, including Aussie couples who marry abroad. A recent ruling in their high court ruled that only Parliament could enact same-sex marriage.

—  James Russell

Marriage equality updates: While we wait on Colorado …..

U.S. District Judge Raymond P. Moore, who heard arguments yesterday in a suit seeking to overturn Colorado’s ban on same-sex marriage, has indicated he is likely to rule in favor of the gay couples who say the ban is unconstitutional. The real question is whether Judge Moore will put his ruling on hold until the inevitable appeals are heard and decided, according to this report by The Washington Post.

Colorado Attorney General  John Suthers isn’t opposing the plaintiffs’ request for an injunction overturning the marriage ban, but he does want Judge Moore to stay his ruling. On the flip side, though, plaintiffs’ attorney Mari Newman argued against the stay, reminding the judge that “justice delayed is justice denied.”

Judge Moore is expected to announce his ruling and his decision on whether or not to issue the stay sometime today. But while we are waiting to hear from Colorado, here are a few more marriage-related tidbits to ponder. (And yes, David Taffet usually does the marriage news roundup here on Instant Tea, but he’s on vacation this week.)

 

Rubio still opposes marriage equality

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Sen. Marco Rubio

File this one under the “Color Us NOT Surprised” heading: Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, is expected to reiterate his opposition to marriage equality in a speech at a Catholic university later today. OK, so he’s not gonna actually say he opposes same-sex marriage. What he’s going to say is that he believes states’ should be allowed to define marriage as they see fit, whether he agrees with them or not, and without interference from the federal courts.

Rubio, a possible Republican presidential candidate, has also said he is not in favor of a federal constitutional ban. By saying that he personally opposes same-sex marriage but believes states should be able to define marriage as they see fit, Rubio is likely looking for a little bit of semi-neutral middle ground in preparation for that possible run for the White House.

This report in the Tampa Bay Times gives more detail on his words and his voting record.

 

Equality Florida to deliver petitions to Bondi

The four same-sex couples challenging Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage along with representatives of Equality Florida Institute are set to deliver 7.000 petitions signed by Floridians to Attorney General Pam Bondi, urging her to “stop wasting taxpayer resources” defending the ban.

Monroe County Chief Circuit Judge Luis M. Garcia issued a ruling on July 17 declaring the ban unconstitutional, although on Monday, July 21, he issued a stay of the ruling as the case moves through the appeals process.

Equality Florida says that recent surveys show that at least 57 percent of Florida residents support marriage equality.

The petitions will be delivered Thursday morning.

On Wednesday, the Miami Herald’s Fred Grimm posted this column criticizing the twice-divorced Bondi for appealing Garcia’s ruling.

“With five divorces between the two of us, Pam Bondi and I aren’t exactly paragons of marriage stability,” Grimm writes. “Nothing in Florida law, however, would keep either one of us from denigrating that hallowed institution once again.”

—  Tammye Nash

Boulder won’t back down, Florida case in court and more

equalityfloridaToday in marriage equality news: A Florida attorney told a trial court the state’s marriage ban should end. Colorado’s attorney general told a county clerk to stop issuing licenses until he has a final ruling even though he favors an end to the ban. The ACLU wants to make sure licenses issued in Wisconsin are considered valid.

Florida

Florida’s marriage ban case went to court yesterday.

Attorney Jeffrey Cohen asked the judge to issue a ruling similar to those in more than 20 other cases across the nation striking down discriminatory marriage bans as unconstitutional. Cohen also pointed out that while Florida allows same-sex couples to adopt children, it still refuses to let them marry.

“It’s the right of a person to choose who they love and who they make their future with,” Cohen said. “We should not make anyone a second-class citizen.”

The judge didn’t indicate when she would rule on the case.

Colorado

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers demanded Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall stop issuing marriages licenses.

But this isn’t an issue of liberal v. conservative. Suthers wants Hall to stop until he receives a clear ruling from the Tenth Circuit and joined Gov. John Hickenlooper in requesting the court overturn the state’s marriage ban. Hickenlooper is a Democrat and Suthers is a Republican.

Hall has refused and continues to issue licenses to same-sex couples. She began issuing the licenses immediately after the Tenth Circuit ruled Utah’s marriage law is unconstitutional. The appeals court stayed its decision, but the stay specified Utah, so Hall, along with two other county clerks in Colorado, began issuing licenses. With legal council, she said the ruling applies to Colorado, which is also in the Tenth Circuit, but the stay on the ruling did not apply to Colorado, since it specified Utah.

While Suthers would like Colorado’s marriage ban overturned, his motion to the court could stop Hall until the court issues a final ruling.

Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, the ACLU is filing a suit seeking legal recognition for the marriages of the same-sex couples who wed in the days after a federal judge overturned the state ban. Following Judge Barbara Crabb’s ruling, more than 500 same-sex couples were married. Days later, Crabb stayed her ruling, pending appeal by state Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen.

Ireland

Although a date hasn’t been set, the Irish will vote on marriage equality sometime early in 2015. Should people really be allowed to vote on other people’s civil rights? According to all courts who’ve weighed in on the issue in the last year, it was wrong when voters in the early 2000s stopped LGBT rights. Does even a yes vote make this election any better?

—  David Taffet

BREAKING NEWS: Kentucky judge rules in favor of marriage equality

U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II has just ruled that Kentucky’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution, according to reports by The Courier-Times. This ruling comes four months after Heyburn’s decision in February ordering the state to recognize same-sex marriages performed in jurisdictions where such marriages are legal.

Judge John G. Heyburn IIDon’t expect immediate wedding bells in The Bluegrass State. Heyburn put his ruling on hold pending a decision by a higher court.

Lawyers for Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear’s only argument in support of the ban was that traditional marriages contribute to a stable birth rate and the state’s long-term economic stability. Heyburn rejected that reasoning, saying “These arguments are not those of serious people.”

Heyburn said in his ruling, “In America, even sincere and long-hold religious beliefs do not trump the constitutional rights of those who happen to have been out-voted.” He also said that there is “no conceivable legitimate purpose” for the ban and that it violates the constitutional guarantee of equal protection under the law.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2013 overturned a significant portion of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, there have been at least 15 court rulings at various levels of the federal court system overturning same-sex marriage bans or bans on recognizing same-sex marriages legally performed elsewhere. That number could go up again soon since a state trial court in Miami is slated to hear oral arguments Wednesday on a motion filed in May by six same-sex couples and Equality Florida Institute challenging Florida’s same-sex marriage ban.

—  Tammye Nash

This week in marriage equality

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Pam Bondi, Florida’s oft-divorced attorney general

Marriage equality went statewide in Illinois this week. One Texas case advanced, and Colorado is having a wedding cake problem.

And Florida’s thrice-divorced attorney general, who travels abroad with a man she’s not married to, thinks same-sex marriage would harm The Sunshine State.

Illinois

Sunday marked the first day of statewide marriage equality in Illinois.

The Legislature passed a marriage equality law last fall that set June 1 as the start date. A Chicago couple sued for immediate implementation of the law because one partner had a terminal illness. A U.S. district court declared Illinois’ ban unconstitutional so Cook County, which includes Chicago, began issuing licenses in February. Since then, 16 Illinois counties have begun issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. As of this week, couples can marry anywhere in the state.

Texas

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals set July 9 as the day it will hear an appeal in DeLeon v. Perry, a Texas marriage equality case. One of the couples, Mark Phariss and Victor Holmes are from Plano.

In February, a federal judge in San Antonio who heard the case declared the Texas marriage ban unconstitutional.

This will be the first Texas case to reach the 5th Circuit. The Texas divorce case was appealed to the Texas Supreme Court. No ruling has been issued in that case that was heard in November.

Florida

Unlike attorneys general in Oregon and Pennsylvania, Florida’s Attorney General Pam Bondi is defending that state’s marriage ban.

She said recognition of out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples would impose “significant public harm” by interfering with Florida’s current marriage laws.

Bondi, who has been divorced three times, was in Cayman over Memorial Day weekend, according to the Tampa Bay Times. The paper reported she was supposed to marry husband No. 4, but she returned to the U.S. unmarried and said the wedding was postponed a few weeks.

In her brief in the marriage equality suit, Bondi claims “the state’s assertion that the harms to same-sex married couples aren’t significant enough to warrant relief.”

Then why is it important for her to get married — for a fourth time? And why is it OK for her to travel abroad with a man she’s not married to but gays marrying once is bad for Florida?

Colorado

Those poor wedding photographers and cake bakers.

The latest complaint is against a Colorado cake baker who refused to bake a cake for a civil union.

On Friday, the Civil Rights Commission in Colorado ruled that religious objections do not trump the state’s anti-discrimination statutes.

The cake shop owner, Jack Phillips, said that the decision violates his First Amendment rights to “free speech and exercise of religion.”

The ruling doesn’t interfere with his religious beliefs and only affects his business practices. A store must serve anyone who comes in.

“I will stand by my convictions until somebody shuts me down,” he told reporters after the ruling.

He said he’s been so overwhelmed by supporters buying cookies and brownies, he doesn’t make cakes anymore.

Yes, we know what goes into brownies in Colorado. I’m sure his business is booming.

—  David Taffet

Former Fla. GOP governor, LGBT adversary speaks for first time to gay press about running again — as a Democrat

CharlieChristDyer

In his first-ever interview with the LGBT press, former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist explains why he switched parties, supports same-sex marriage and wants to be governor again

TOM DYER  |  Watermark Online

ORLANDO -  A union hall was an unlikely venue for Charlie Crist’s first interview with the LGBT press, but the former Republican governor, now Democratic candidate for the same office, has a busy schedule these days. After meeting with the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades on Saturday, Dec. 14, he made himself available for an exclusive conversation.

To the union members, Crist described his ambitious agenda if elected: creating jobs, boosting education, protecting the environment, expanding health care and voting rights, and even resurrecting high speed rail. And he acknowledged the tough race ahead against Republican incumbent multi-millionaire Rick Scott.

“I’m running against a $100 million meat-grinder,” Crist told them. “I need more than your support, I need your commitment.”

Some Democrats see Crist as an unwanted, undeserving interloper. His announcement all but extinguished the candidacy of South Florida’s Nan Rich, an experienced former Senate Minority Leader with liberal bona fides.

But many have cheered his arrival, seeing a real chance to regain the governor’s mansion for the first time in 15 years. Despite a confounding run for U.S. Senate in 2010, first as a Republican and then as an Independent, recent polls show that Floridians still like Charlie. He currently leads Scott by anywhere from four to 14 points, and U.S. Senator Bill Nelson by 13 points in a matchup of Democrats.

It was easy to see why he chose a union hall. Crist likes people and enjoys campaigning. He connected with many in the audience — remembering not only their names but those of their spouses and mothers — with a Clinton-like charisma that is both powerful and persuasive. He left with a check and a standing ovation.

But the LGBT community poses special challenges. Crist recently endorsed same-sex marriage rights and all the other components of full equality. But when the Amendment 2 constitutional ban on same-sex marriage appeared on the 2008 ballot, Crist announced his support just weeks before voting day. It passed by less than 2 percentage points, and many gays and lesbian still blame their former governor. And as recently as 2010, while running for U.S. Senate, he told CNN he believed marriage should be between a man and a woman.

I asked him about all that and more during an hour-long interview. A skeptic, I was surprised and even a little disarmed by his candor. I can’t wait to find out if you are, too.

WATERMARK:  I’ve been looking forward to this dialogue. Many members of the LGBT community are enthusiastic about your candidacy, but just as many are skeptical and some are even hostile. I want to give you an opportunity to address their concerns head on.
CHARLIE CRIST: Thank you for the opportunity.

—  Steve Ramos

Florida state senator introduces domestic partner registry bill

Florida Sen. Eleanor Sobel

Florida State Sen. Eleanor Sobel — a Democrat from Hollywood in Broward County near the southern end of the state — has introduced legislation that would create a statewide domestic partner registry and add “partnership” as a relationship status option to all state forms, according to an email today from Florida Together Federation.

Senate Bill 166 is slated to be heard in the Florida Legislature’s 2012 session, beginning in January.

In a written statement, Sobel — described by Florida Together officials as a longtime ally of the LGBT community — said that a “majority of Americans and Floridians support recognition for same-sex relationships,” and that it “no longer makes sense for the state to have just one category — married and everyone else.”

Michael Kenny, executive director of Florida Together, said that LGBT rights advocates are thrilled to see Sobel introduce the bill, but he acknowledged that there is still a long way to go.

Kenny said, “Having a bill filed is a long, long way from creating law. But as they say, even the longest journey begins with a first step and we are proud to have Senator Sobel start this journey with us and for us.”

Florida Together Federation is a statewide organization that brings together local LGBT groups in the state to share resources, skills and information in the battle for LGBT equality.

—  admin