Florida’s same-sex marriage situation is still in flux as January 5th quickly approaches – the date when the stay on a federal judge’s ruling which struck down the marriage equality ban expires.
After a law firm representing the state’s county clerks sent out a memo erroneously informing clerks they would be open to arrest and fines should they issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, a majority of the state’s 67 clerks say they will not be issuing gay couples marriage licenses come January 6th.
Of the 53 clerks who responded to the AP survey, 46 said they wouldn’t grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples because they lack legal authority. Six clerks said they hadn’t made up their minds; Only one clerk outside Washington County, Osceola County’s Armando Ramirez, said he would issue the licenses.
Ramirez said his office would begin issuing marriage permits for same-sex couples a minute after midnight on Jan. 6. He said it’s a matter of not discriminating against a minority group.
“We won’t waste any time,” he said.
Gay rights groups are disputing the clerk association’s interpretation of Hinkle’s ruling, and they’re threatening legal action if licenses for same-sex couples aren’t issued across the state. On Wednesday, they sent out a memo to Florida’s 67 clerks of courts stating the clerks are required to stop enforcing Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage in two weeks.
“We are prepared to fight,” said Sharon Kersten, a public relations consultant for Equality Florida, the gay rights group.
Some clerks said they’re hoping for clarification from a court. Dwight Brock, clerk of Collier County in southwest Florida, said it would be “disastrous” if counties didn’t act in a uniform manner. He hasn’t decided what to do given the conflicting opinions.