Judge clears Orange County Clerk to issue marriage licenses

By : Jamie Hyman
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A judge is giving Orange County Clerk Tiffany Moore Russell the green light to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples Jan. 6.

Moore Russell filed a petition with the Orange County 9th District Circuit Court Dec. 30, asking for judgment on the matter. Read that petition here: Emergency Petition for Declaratory Judgment 123014

Judge Timothy Shea replied Dec. 31.

“This court has concluded that the ruling of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida in Brenner v. Scott is an excellent, well-thought-out, legally sound decision that controls the law in the State of Florida,” the ruling reads, referring to federal judge Robert Hinkle’s ruling in August that Florida’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional. “This Court could not state the legal issues and the correct legal decision better than Judge Hinkle did in the Brenner… case. That is, Florida’s same-sex marriage provision violates the due process and equal protection clauses of the Constitution of the United States of America.”

The ruling further states that Clerk Moore Russell may rely on Hinkle’s ruling, that issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples Jan. 6 would not be a criminal violation, and that the order remains unless there’s a new ruling at the federal level.

Read the full order here: Order Granting Emergency Petition 2014-CA-013275-O

Hinkle’s ruling that the ban is unconstitutional came with a stay, set to expire end of day Jan. 5.

However, the Florida Association of Court Clerks and Comptrollers attorneys have twice warned that Hinkle’s ruling only applies in Washington County, and clerks in other counties could face criminal charges if they issue licenses.

Since then, clerks in most Florida counties have either stated that they’ll hold off on issuing licenses until the Association updates their recommendation or a court order clarifies the issue, with exception of Osceola County. Osceola Clerk Armando Ramirez told Watermark that not only will he issue licenses to same-sex couples Jan. 6, but he will open his office for two hours at midnight to get things started early.

State attorney Jeff Ashton announced Dec. 23 that his office would not prosecute clerks in Osceola or Orange counties for issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples Jan. 6.

Previous to asking for the judgment, Moore Russell had taken a more cautious approach, telling Watermark that personally, she still supports marriage equality and would “love” to issue licenses to same sex couples Jan. 6, but she has to “make sure I have direction so I don’t do something that would be considered invalid later.”

Watermark contacted Moore Russell’s office to confirm whether she’d actually issue the licenses Jan. 6. Her assistant said the Clerk did not wish to comment, because “She would like her statement and the order to stand on its own.”

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