Florida Keys News
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Same-sex marriage licenses on hold
Demonstration at courthouse planned for 8:30 a.m. today

The Monroe County circuit judge whose historic ruling last week declared Florida's same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional refused Monday to lift the stay on his order.

Judge Luis Garcia said the stay should remain in place until the appeals process is exhausted, rejecting an emergency motion by lawyers for the Key West couple whose lawsuit made national news when it shattered the state's antigay marriage stance.

"Based on decisions of the United States Supreme Court and other courts to stay proceedings in similar challenges, this court denies the emergency motion," Garcia wrote in his order Monday. "The automatic stay, currently in place, shall remain in place until the completion of the appellate proceedings or until further order of this court."

Monroe County cannot issue same-sex couples marriage licenses until the Third District Court of Appeal resolves the issue.

"Everything is on hold," said Sharon Kersten, an Equality Florida spokeswoman who is handling media calls for the plaintiff's attorneys, Restivo, Reilly and Vigil-Farinas of Key Largo.

Garcia ruled Thursday that Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones -- and other same-sex couples -- have the right to marry in a 14-page decision that compared the ban to past laws against interracial marriage.

Although voters in 2008 agreed with a legal definition of marriage as between one man and one woman, Garcia said the ban went against the protections guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution.

Garcia gave Clerk of Court Amy Heavilin's office a Tuesday start date for issuing same-sex marriage licenses.

But Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi quickly lodged an appeal, which put a freeze on the issuance of marriage licenses for same-sex couples.

On Monday morning, attorneys for Huntsman and Jones filed an emergency motion to lift the stay in the case, citing "irreparable harm if the stay is not lifted," and the unlikelihood the state would prevail in the case.

Heavilin's office had made all the preparations to issue licenses to same-sex couples just in case the stay was lifted, said Ron Saunders, legal counsel for the clerk of courts.

"We amended our marriage vows for same-sex applicants from 'Husband and Wife' to 'First Spouse and Second Spouse,'" said Saunders. "We had a large number of packets prepared, and staff was informed and ready to handle the anticipated rush of applicants."

Bondi's office on Monday urged Garcia to follow the direction of the U.S. Supreme Court and federal appellate courts, which have issued orders freezing lower court decisions on same-sex marriage lawsuits.

"They have all acted to maintain the status quo while the issues presented are resolved," Bondi's team wrote in a response to the plaintiff's emergency motion. "Stays are appropriate in these types of cases."

Equality Florida on Monday announced a demonstration in support of "marriage equality" at 8:30 a.m. today outside the county courthouse at Whitehead and Southard streets.

"Bring signs, banners, family, friends and all good intentions!" an email blast from the nonprofit said.

gfilosa@keysnews.com

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