Today marks an important deadline in a lawsuit fighting for marriage equality in Florida.
It stems from Grimsley and Albu v. Scott, a case filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of eight married same-sex couples and SAVE, a South Florida LGBT rights organization. The case fights for marriage recognition for gay couples legally married out-of-state.
On Aug. 21, U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle ruled that Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. As in other Florida marriage equality cases, an appeal by Florida attorney general Pam Bondi meant a stay was placed on the ruling. On Oct. 6, when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear same-sex marriage appeals from five states, it opened the door for the ACLU to attempt to kill Florida’s stay on marriage.
Today is the deadline for the state to respond to that request that the stay be lifted.
Baylor Johnson, the Director of Communications for the ACLU, said the exact deadline is midnight tonight.
“To be clear, today’s deadline is not a deadline for the judge to rule on our motion to lift the stay, but rather for the state to respond to our motion,” Johnson said. “While it is possible the judge could rule today, it’s not likely.”
What happens if the state doesn’t respond?
“The state doesn’t have to respond,” he said. “But nothing happens automatically, so Judge Hinkle will still have to enter an order granting us relief in order for anything to change.”
And what if the state does respond?
Johnson said Judge Hinkle will be briefed by both sides, then make a decision on whether to lift the stay on marriages. There is no deadline on Hinkle’s decision, but Johnson doesn’t think the Judge will wait long.”
“We expect that decision soon, and we’re certainly hopeful, based on what happened at the Supreme Court earlier this month, that the judge will lift the stay and that marriage will finally be allowed to win in Florida,” he said.
Mary Meeks, an Orlando attorney who is on the legal team for another case fighting for marriage equality, did not want to speculate on what the state or Judge Hinkle might do.
“I certainly hope that the state finally does the right thing and allows loving same-sex couples to begin to marry and enjoy the rights and dignities that five Florida courts have ruled that they deserve and are entitled to,” Meeks said. “And if the state continues its obstructionist and heartless opposition, then I certainly hope and expect that Judge Hinkle will follow through on the conditions he imposed in his prior Order and vacate the stay.”