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Appeals court: Same-sex couples can't marry yet in Florida Keys

Aaron Huntsman, left, and William Lee Jones, right, embrace during a celebration on the day the gay marriage ban was overturned by a judge. But the case has taken many twists since last week. (AP Photo/Florida Keys News Bureau, Andy Newman)

Aaron Huntsman, left, and William Lee Jones, right, embrace during a celebration on the day the gay marriage ban was overturned by a judge. But the case has taken many twists since last week. (AP Photo/Florida Keys News Bureau, Andy Newman)

An appeals court declined on Wednesday to lift a stay of a Key West judge's ruling that would have allowed same-sex couples to marry in Monroe County.

Key West bartenders Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones, who won permission last week from Monroe Chief Circuit Judge Luis Garcia to marry, had asked the appeals court to lift an automatic stay of the ruling that went into effect when the state appealed Garcia's decision.

"We certainly believe this stay should be lifted," said Bernadette Restivo, who represents Huntsman and Jones with law partner Elena Vigil-Fariñas. "Every day this same-sex marriage ban is in place, our clients and other couples like them throughout the state of Florida are irrevocably harmed and discriminated against by this unconstitutional ban."

This was the men's second attempt at lifting the stay. On Monday, Garcia, who declared Florida's 2008 gay-marriage ban unconstitutional, denied their first request.

In both the motion filed Monday with Garcia and the one filed Wednesday with the Miami-based 3rd District Court of Appeal, Restivo wrote: "The Plaintiffs and other same-sex couples who wish to marry are suffering serious, irreparable harms every day (Florida's Marriage Protection Act) remains in effect."

After Garcia's July 17 ruling, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi swiftly announced she would appeal. Her office issued a statement saying that "with many similar cases pending throughout the entire country, finality on this constitutional issue must come from the U.S. Supreme Court."

By filing the appeal notice, Bondi triggered the automatic stay in the case.

Garcia's original decision that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry applies only to Monroe County because it was filed in front of a state judge who has jurisdiction only in the county where he sits. Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel has yet to rule in a similar case.

Huntsman and Jones, a couple for 11 years, sued Monroe County Clerk Amy Heavilin in April for a marriage license, saying Florida's ban violates the U.S. Constitution's equal protection clause.

The Monroe case mirrors the suit in Miami-Dade, in which six same-sex couples and LGBT advocacy group Equality Florida Institute sued County Clerk Harvey Ruvin for the right to marry.

Nineteen states and Washington, D.C., have legalized same-sex marriage.

Appeals court: Same-sex couples can't marry yet in Florida Keys 07/23/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 23, 2014 7:27pm]
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