LGBTQ South Florida

Top law firm that advised clerks not to issue gay-marriage licenses supports gay marriage

Hilarie Bass, co-president of Greenberg Traurig.
Hilarie Bass, co-president of Greenberg Traurig. Miami Herald File

Top law firm Greenberg Traurig — which advised county clerks in Florida they risk criminal charges if they issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples — on Friday announced it actually supports the couples’ right to marry.

“The advice provided by Greenberg Traurig to our client, the Florida Association of Clerks and Comptrollers, addresses a Florida clerk’s duties under existing Florida law, which prohibits the issuance of same-sex marriage licenses. Current Florida law makes it a crime — punishable by imprisonment or a fine — to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple. Greenberg Traurig is not advising the clerks as to the constitutionality of the Florida ban on same-sex marriage,” Hilarie Bass, the firm’s Miami-based co-president, said in a statement to the Miami Herald.

On Monday, Greenberg Traurig, on behalf of gay adoptive father Martin Gill, will file a friend-of-the-court brief in Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal “in support of two circuit court orders declaring unconstitutional Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage,” Bass said.

Bass and Greenberg Traurig, along with the ACLU of Florida, helped represent Gill in his quest to overturn a 1977 Florida law that prohibited gays and lesbians from adopting. Gill adopted his foster sons in 2010.

In June, Bass told the Herald: “I am most proud of my work on the pro bono case representing Frank Martin Gill's two foster children. I lead the team that successfully challenged the Florida law prohibiting gay adoption, the only one of its kind in the U.S. Within days of our appellate victory, prospective adoptive parents were no longer being asked about their sexual orientation. There is no greater feeling than knowing you have changed the course of so many lives and eliminated a grave injustice in society.”

Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, which represents eight same-sex couples and LGBT-rights group SAVE in the federal lawsuit, said he is pleased Greenberg Traurig will file the gay-marriage court brief on Monday, despite the firm’s advice to county clerks throughout the state.

“As a result of our litigation here in Florida and around the county, equality is inevitable and marriage equality is inevitable,” Simon said. “Whatever disagreement there may be about the significance of a preliminary injunction issued by a federal judge will be behind us shortly.”

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