LGBTQ South Florida

Florida begins appeal of decision allowing same-sex marriage

Florida Attorney General Pamela Bondi.
Florida Attorney General Pamela Bondi. Miami Herald

Taking the first steps to overturn a ruling allowing same-sex marriage in Florida, state Attorney General Pam Bondi filed an opening brief in two cases late Friday night in a federal appeals court.

Bondi, under the direction of Gov. Rick Scott, is contesting an Aug. 21 decision by U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle of Tallahassee that allows same-sex marriage and the recognition of those marriages performed elsewhere.

The appeal will be heard by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, which has jurisdiction over Alabama, Florida and Georgia.

Hinkle, who deemed unconstitutional Florida’s 2008 ban on same-sex marriage, issued an immediate stay covering all aspects of the federal case except one: Hinkle ordered that one woman’s death certificate be amended to show she was married at the time she died. He said the stay would remain until the U.S. Supreme Court resolved pending applications from Utah, Oklahoma and Virginia.

The woman, 66-year-old Carol Goldwasser of Fort Myers, the partner of Arlene Goldberg for 47 years, died in March. Originally marked “single,” Goldwasser’s death certificate was amended in late September to read “married.”

“Governor Scott and Attorney General Bondi are continuing to recycle unsupportable arguments to needlessly delay the inevitable at the expense of Florida families,” Daniel Tilley, staff attorney with the ACLU of Florida, said in a press release.

One case was brought by the ACLU on behalf of Goldwasser’s widow, LGBT rights organization SAVE, and eight couples seeking recognition of their marriages or the issuance of licenses. The other case was brought on behalf of two Tallahassee couples.

The ACLU previously told the Miami Herald that the state suffers no harm if the stay is lifted, while same-sex couples suffer “irreparable harm.”

Hinkle ruled in November that the stay on his decision would be lifted Jan. 5. Couples will be able to marry or gain recognition Jan. 6 unless the federal appeals court extends the stay.

“Families across Florida suffer every day that the marriage ban remains in place, and we won’t back down from this fight on their behalf,” Tilley said. “We look forward to making our own arguments to the Eleventh Circuit soon, explaining why Florida’s hurtful marriage ban is unconstitutional and should be brought to an end once and for all.”