The only thing that anyone can agree on about marriage in Florida is that they all disagree with each other.
For now, it’s impossible to predict exactly what’s going to happen on January 6th, when a federal ruling that the state’s marriage ban is unconstitutional finally goes into effect. Marriage might become legal across the state, or it might become legal in just one or two counties, or it might flicker in and out of legality like a confused lightning bug.
That’s because everyone seems to have a different interpretation about what exactly is unconstitutional, and what the state is supposed to do about it. According to the federal judge (who really should be the final authority on the matter), the marriage ban is unconstitutional, period, end of story. But according to the clerks, that doesn’t matter — the law is still on the books, even if it’s unconstitutional, so they have to follow it.
Yes, that is a crazy claim, and we are in disbelief that they’re even proposing it. Where else but Florida?
So for now, the overwhelming majority of Florida clerks are planning to refuse to issue licenses on the 6th. But if they really make good on that threat, they may be setting themselves up for trouble: groups like the ACLU and NCLR say that to refuse to issue the licenses constitutes contempt of court, and the clerks could get in even bigger trouble if they turn couples away.
What a freaking mess.
And this is exhibit one for why the Supreme Court needs to get involved here and issue a nationwide ruling that marriage bans are unconstitutional. Until that happens, every little government official from one end of the country to the other is going to have their own opinion about who can get married. Fortunately, it looks like the Supreme Court has realized just how ridiculous things are getting: they’ve announced that they’re going to meet next week to decide whether to take a marriage case. It’ll be months — at the earliest — before they can rule, but hopefully they’ll end all this confusion before summer.
Now, if only all of Florida’s problems could be solved so easily.