Ruling would permit Florida same-sex marriages in early January

Wed Dec 3, 2014 6:53pm EST
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By Bill Cotterell

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Reuters) - Same-sex marriages could begin in Florida in early January after the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declined on Wednesday to further stay a lower court ruling that overturned the state's ban on gay weddings.

The appellate court ruling would permit same-sex couples to tie the knot when the stay expires after Jan. 5. State officials can appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

While gay marriage advocates have had the upper hand in the courts in the past year, a Cincinnati-based federal appeals court on Nov. 6 became the first to uphold gay marriage bans.

That decision, by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, created a split within the courts, increasing the chances the Supreme Court will rule on the issue.

“I don’t see what they can do at this point to stop it," said Don Price Johnston of Miami, who was involved in one of several Florida cases in which judges have struck down the ban, approved by Florida voters in 2008.

Gay marriage is legal in 35 states, not counting Florida.

The appellate decision stemmed from an August ruling by U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle of Florida's Northern District in Tallahassee, who was the first federal judge to find the state's same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional.

Florida state officials appealed his decision, as well as state court rulings striking down the marriage ban.   Continued...

Same-sex marriage supporters chant outside the Miami-Dade County courthouse following a hearing seeking to strike down the state's de facto ban on gay marriage and order it to recognize same-sex marriage, in Miami, Florida July 2, 2014.  Same-sex marriages could begin in Florida in early January after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit on Wednesday declined to extend a stay issued by a federal judge who struck down the state's ban on gay weddings. REUTERS/Zachary Fagenson