Post submitted by Charlie Joughin, HRC Press Secretary
A federal judge’s stay on a ruling overturning Florida’s ban on marriage equality expires at the end of the day today, making the Sunshine State the latest where same-sex couples can legally marry. With Florida, over 216 million Americans – 70 percent of the country – live in a state with marriage equality. Since this time last year, state statutes or constitutional amendments banning marriage rights for same-sex couples have been overturned by state or federal courts in 28 states. As of tomorrow, gay and lesbian couples will be able to legally marry in 36 states and Washington, D.C.
“The overwhelming tidal wave of court rulings over the last year has put America on the cusp of nationwide marriage equality,” said Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “Committed and loving gay and lesbian couples in Florida are just as deserving of marriage rights as anyone else. It’s time government officials such as Attorney General Bondi and individuals like her across the country stop fighting to uphold discrimination. As long as shameful marriage bans stay in place, real people and real families are harmed.”
On December 19, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an order declining to extend the stay on a federal court ruling striking down Florida’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples. The order pertained to an August 21st federal court decision in Brenner v. Scott in which U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle ruled Florida’s ban on marriage equality violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses. Judge Hinkle stayed his ruling “until 91 days after stays have been denied or lifted in Bostic v. Schaefer, Bishop v. Smith and Kitchen v. Herbert” – marriage equality cases from other states that were on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court at the time. The Supreme Court later declined to take up the cases, immediately ending the stays that were in place. The Brenner case out of Florida is on appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.
Earlier today Florida Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel lifted a stay on her ruling in a separate case striking down Florida’s marriage ban from August of last year, allowing same-sex couples in Miami-Dade County to begin marrying this afternoon.
This time last year, same-sex couples could legally marry in 16 states and Washington, D.C. Roughly 105 million Americans, or 34 percent of the country, lived in marriage equality states. In just one year, that number has more than doubled to over 216 million Americans. Dozens of federal court rulings from judges appointed by Republican and Democratic presidents have struck down state bans on same-sex marriage. Only two federal courts have said such bans should remain in place since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled key portions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional in June of 2013.
Today there are marriage cases from six states on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. On January 9, the justices will consider whether to take a case from Louisiana, which has not yet received a ruling from a federal appeals court, and cases from Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee, after a three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled to uphold those states’ bans on marriage equality. The Supreme Court is under no obligation as to which case or cases - if any - it chooses to hear on appeal, although the loss in the Sixth Circuit creates a circuit court split, increasing the likelihood the Supreme Court takes up the issue of marriage.
Gallup puts support for marriage equality at 55 percent – an astonishing 15 points increase from just 5 years ago – with other polls showing support at even higher margins. And support for same-sex marriage rights continues to grow in virtually every demographic group. According to ABC News/Washington Post, 77 percent of adults under age 30 favor marriage equality. 40 percent of Republicans – an all-time high and jump of 16 points in under two years – now support marriage for gay and lesbian couples, while the number of Catholics supporting marriage has grown to 62 percent, according to the New York Times. These numbers continue to grow, with no indication that support will slow down.