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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Judge removes Bondi from same-sex cases

Same-sex marriage could be legalized in Florida by the end of this month.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle ruled on Aug. 21 that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. 

In doing so, Hinkle dismissed Attorney General Pam Bondi from reviewing and appealing future same-sex marriage cases, leaving the fate of the ruling in the hands of three people, two of whom were appointed by Gov. Rick Scott.

If Washington County Clerk of Court Harold Bazzel or Scott’s appointees, Craig J. Nichols, secretary of the Florida Department of Management Services, and State Surgeon General John H. Armstrong, do not appeal Hinkle’s ruling, same-sex marriage will be legalized on Sept. 22.

Bondi’s dismissal came after she continued to appeal county cases that ruled against the state’s same-sex marriage ban, including those in Palm Beach, Miami-Dade and Broward counties this summer. 

Her actions adhered to federal law regarding same-sex marriage, but they were viewed as a political delay tactic because her appeals also prevented the state’s Supreme Court from hearing the cases.

“They can dismiss an individual from a case if they feel the person is not a correct representative of the issue,” said Aimee Cernicharo, staff attorney at the St. Thomas University Human Rights Institute in Miami. “It is possible but highly unusual to dismiss the attorney general, who is technically the top legal professional.”

In 2008, voters approved of Florida’s ban of same-sex marriage. Yet in recent months, state court cases have ruled for its legalization.

Terry Fleming, spokesman for the Pride Community Center of North Central Florida, said the organization is waiting to see what happens in the next couple of months.

“(We) plan to monitor the appellate court decisions,” he said. “It could take a number of months or years.”

Valerie Rinaman, a 19-year-old UF exploratory engineering sophomore, said she would prefer if Florida voters  made the decision.

“It’s better for people to vote on it, rather than waiting for the Supreme Court to enforce it,” Rinaman said.

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[A version of this story ran on page 9 on 9/2/2014 under the headline "Judge removes Bondi from same-sex cases"]

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