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Florida Supreme Court Asked to Rule on Gay Marriage

Associated Press

Florida's highest court is being asked to rule on whether the state's ban on gay marriage is constitutional.

A majority of judges with the state's 2nd District Court of Appeal on Wednesday asked the Florida Supreme Court to settle the question due to "great public importance."

The ruling is connected to a divorce case involving a same-sex couple from Tampa who had been married in Massachusetts. Mariama Changamire Shaw and Keiba Lynn Shawfiled a petition to dissolve their marriage, but it was rejected by a Florida judge who noted that state law does not recognize gay marriage.

"Resolution of the constitutional questions will no doubt impact far more individuals than the two involved here," states the unsigned opinion. "And there can be little doubt that until the constitutional questions are finally resolved by the Florida Supreme Court or the United States Supreme Court, there will be a great impact on the proper administration of justice in Florida."

A panel of judges with the Lakeland based appeals court earlier this summer rejected a request to forward the case up the state Supreme Court. But that ruling was overturned in a 10-3 decision by the entire appeals court.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has asked judges to stop ruling on same-sex marriage cases until the U.S. Supreme Court decides whether states can ban gay marriage. But her request has not been ruled on yet.

Voters approved the ban in 2008.

But judges in four Florida counties -- Palm Beach, Monroe, Miami-Dade and Broward -- have overturned the ban. Last week a federal judge also overturned the ban. No marriage licenses have been issued so far.

The Tampa Tribune reports that while Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi's office has previously defended the ban, it hasn't acted in the Shaw's case.

It remained unclear whether Bondi will get involved in the Shaw case now that it’s before the state Supreme Court. Asked whether the office will file an appearance in the case, Bondi spokeswoman Jennifer Meale said only, “We will review the ruling.” “I would think, if they’re going to be consistent in their backward ideas, they would have filed in opposition to this case,” said attorney Brett Rahall, who represents Changamire Shaw.

Mark Schreiner is the assistant news director and intern coordinator for WUSF News.
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