Federal judge says all counties must issue gay marriage licenses

Stay banning same-sex marriage expires Jan. 5

By Ross Palombo, Glenna Milberg - Reporter

MIAMI - A federal judge has cleared the way for same sex marriage as of Jan. 6.

Judge Robert Hinkle has clarified his initial ruling, saying clerks throughout all Florida counties must issue licenses.

The stay banning gay marriages expires Jan. 5 after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to extend it.

"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," Hinkle wrote in his ruling.

Retired Miami-Dade County Judge David Young and his longtime partner decided to get married in another state earlier this month.

"For so many couples who have been in relations can finally be equal under the eyes of the law and that's really important to me," said Young.

"This is a new year's present from a federal judge," said Howard Simon, of the American Civil Liberties Union. "We will have a uniform statewide transition to equality starting Tuesday, Jan. 6."

ALSO: Marriage Guide For Same-Sex Couples In Florida

Hinkle's case at the federal level involves a couple in Washington County, for whom he ruled Florida's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional three months ago. His simultaneous stay on that decision to allow for appeals set to expire Monday held through challenges up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Until Thursday, confusion reigned among clerks in other Florida counties. Most, according to an AP poll, planned to hold off on issuing licenses in fear of breaking the law.

In his clarification Thursday, Hinkle noted clerks who choose not to follow his ruling are at risk of lawsuit.

"Hostile forces can delay it, but they cannot stop it," Simon said.

Attorney General Pam Bondi, who has fought to stop gay marriage every step of the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court conceded Thursday night.

"My office will not stand in the way as clerks of court determine how to proceed," Bondi said.

"Marriage licenses will be issued by every county clerk starting Tuesday," said Simon.

It may, though, even start sooner. One couple is part of a separate Miami-Dade case that may pave the way for county marriage as soon as Monday.

"We're going to be first in line," the couple said. "The exciting thing is we can do it, achieve a dream we always wanted."

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