Greenberg Traurig Says Court Order Concerns One County in Florida
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greenberg-traurig at center of florida gay marriage case

Summary: The law firm of Greenberg Traurig, which is representing court clerks in Florida, said that the court ruling on same-sex marriage concerns one county. 

Greenberg Traurig, which is representing Florida’s 67 court clerks, warned that a federal judge’s overturning the state’s ban on gay marriage applies to just Washington County, according to The Tampa Bay Times.


The firm told court clerks that they could face misdemeanor charges if they issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in their jurisdiction.

The reason it applies to only Washington County is the fact that it is the only county named in the lawsuit.

To read more about Greenberg Traurig, click here.

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The Florida Association of Court Clerks and Comptrollers said that clerks in the rest of the Florida counties are not bound by the ruling from U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle. Hinkle said the gay marriage ban is unconstitutional. He issued the ruling back in August.

Should the clerks follow the guidance of the firm, Florida could be headed down the same road as Kansas. Multiple judges removed the same-sex marriage ban in the state, but there are still some clerks that refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

A hold has been placed on the ruling, by Hinkle himself, until the end of the day January 5. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied a request to extend the hold. Due to this, gay marriage advocates in Florida said that licenses could be issued to same-sex couples beginning on January 6 all over the state.

Betsy White is a civil rights attorney in Jacksonville who is representing two gay couples named in the federal lawsuit. She said that this is how it should work on January 6. She said the advice of Greenberg Traurig “is dead wrong.” She said their advice encourages 66 other lawsuits for each of the state’s counties.

To read more about same-sex marriage in Florida, click here.

“If certain clerks are going to take the position that they’re not bound by Judge Hinkle’s decision, then we’ll be going back to the court and asking those parties to be included,” White said.

The advice from Greenberg Traurig puts the court clerks in a difficult spot. They can face criminal charges if they issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. On the other hand, if they do not issue licenses, they could face lawsuits from the ACLU and other organizations that support gay marriage.

Howard Simon is the executive director of the ACLU of Florida. He said a clerk should not face arrest for issuing a same-sex marriage license.

To read more about the ACLU, click here.

“When a federal judge declares a law unconstitutional, all public officials should cease enforcing that law. Period,” Simon said.

Attorney General Pam Bondi asked the United States Supreme Court to extend the stay past January 5 as the state continues its fight to protect the gay marriage ban. This request was ignored.

“It’s disingenuous of the state,” said White. “The only confusion I see is from the defendants.”

Will the court clerks follow the advice of Greenberg Traurig? Use our poll to share your thoughts.

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Image credit: Greenberg Traurig


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