A US federal judge wiped away all the confusion. Come 6 January, every single county clerk in Florida must provide marriage certificates to qualified LGBTI couples.
Federal district Judge Robert Hinkle released his decision on 1 January.
In late 2014 August, the judge ruled the southern US state’s ban on marriage equality was unconstitutional.
He put a hold on the finding to give the state time to appeal.
In the New Year’s Day decree, Hinkle noted Florida had a number of appeals that were denied by higher courts.
‘I stayed the ruling in this case while those stays were in effect and for 91 more days—long enough to allow the defendants to seek a further stay in the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit and, if unsuccessful there, in the United States Supreme Court. The defendants did that,’ the judge wrote.
‘They lost. The United States Supreme Court allowed the ruling in this case to take
effect,’ he continued.
His injunction ends on 5 January, and he warned all state clerks, even those opposed to gay marriage, should follow the law.
There has been confusion because the Florida Association of Court Clerks and Comptrollers previously stated it believed only Washington County would be legally able to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.
‘Reasonable people can debate whether the ruling in this case was correct and who it binds,’ the judge wrote.
‘There should be no debate, however, on the question whether a clerk of court may
follow the ruling, even for marriage-license applicants who are not parties to this
case,’ he added.
Hinkle warned clerks who do not issue certificates to same-sex couples face ‘preliminary injunctions.’ In addition, those state officials could be required to pay the fees and costs of successful plaintiffs.
Marriage rights advocates hailed the order.
‘We are pleased that he has put an end to the unnecessary confusion caused by a misguided legal memo by a private law firm,’ Nadine Smith, CEO of Equality Florida, said in a statement.
‘We look forward to January 6th when couples who have waited for this day can finally be married, and those of us married elsewhere are finally able to fully protect our families.’
Daniel Tilley, American Civil Liberties Union of Florida LGBT rights staff attorney, advised those county officials who still might balk come Tuesday.
‘We expect all clerks to respect the ruling,’ Tilley said in a statement
‘But if not, we are committed to ensuring marriage equality in all 67 counties in Florida and we would like to hear from any couples that are wrongfully denied a license after the stay expires,’ he added.