Same Sex Marriages Have Begun in Florida

Last August, we provided an update on the status of same sex marriages in Florida.   There have been several developments in two of the key cases discussed therein: Brenner v. Scott and Pareto v. Ruvin that have, for now, established that same sex marriages are allowed in Florida.

In Brenner v. Scott, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida held that Florida’s ban on same sex marriages violated the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  The Court stayed its Order until January 5, 2015 to allow time for an appeal of its ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

On December 3, the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit denied the State of Florida’s request to stay the U.S. District Court’s Order beyond January 5, 2015.  That decision was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which denied the extension on December 19.  Therefore, absent further action, the order of the U.S. District Court will go into effect at midnight tonight.

Finally, there was some concern that the U.S. District Court’s Order only applied to Washington County, which is where the plaintiffs were denied a marriage license.  On January 1, the U.S. District Court clarified that its Order applied to all of Florida.

In Pareto v. Ruvin, Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Sarah Zabel held that Florida’s ban on same sex marriage was unconstitutional.  However, Judge Zabel stayed her order pending anticipated appeals.  Earlier today, Judge Zabel lifted the stay and ordered the Clerk of the Court in Miami-Dade County to immediately begin issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples.

This afternoon, that clerk began conducting civil marriage ceremonies for same sex couples.  Clerks of the Court in several other counties will begin holding ceremonies tomorrow, when the ban is lifted statewide.  However, Clerks of Court for several counties have announced that they will no longer perform any civil marriage ceremonies.