Florida: All clerks must issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples on January 6. Costly legal battles ahead for any clerk who discriminates

As of January 6, County Clerks across Florida have a legal obligation to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples – or risk expensive litigation, including liability for damages and attorney fees.

In refusing to extend a stay that expires on Jan 5th, the US Supreme Court smacked down the last ditch effort by Attorney General Pam Bondi to block marriages. The highest court also put an end to the confusion generated by a memo to Clerks from the legal counsel to the Florida Association of Clerks and Comptrollers.

That memo by a Greenberg Traurig attorney has been blasted by state and national legal experts and includes an exaggerated warning to Clerks that they could be fined or prosecuted if they issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

“Clerks can stand in the doorway and try to block equality or they can welcome gay couples who have waited for decades for this moment,” said Nadine Smith. “We expect every Clerk to uphold their oath and protect the constitutional rights of gay couples seeking marriage licenses. No legal firm’s memo overrides their clear legal obligation.”

A Federal district court in Florida has now joined the 60 other state and federal courts — including 4 federal appellate courts — who over the past year have affirmed the freedom to marry and held the denial of marriage and full respect to be unconstitutional. The 11th Circuit refused to delay the ruling’s going into effect, and now so has the United States Supreme Court.

In the hours following the SCOTUS decision, law firms, private attorneys and legal organizations have committed to providing pro bono legal counsel to any Clerks who are concerned about the memo. Attorneys also issued a stern warning: Clerks who fail to heed the federal court ruling declaring the ban unconstitutional will end up in a costly legal battle.

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via Equality Florida