In 2008, Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. The amendment was enacted in the face of strong opposition from civil rights groups and from Florida’s then-Democratic governor, Lawton Chiles. The amendment stood until 2014, when a U.S. district court ruled Florida’s ban on gay marriage unconstitutional. The decision was stayed, but when it expired in January of 2015, same-sex marriage became legal in the state.
That same month, the Supreme Court issued its landmark Obergefell vs. Hodges decision, making same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states, including Florida. As the result of Obergefell, all counties in Florida must now issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and must recognize same-sex weddings performed outside the state.
The federal judge’s New Year’s Day ruling was a welcome development for LGBT couples and their families. However, there was confusion over whether his ruling applied to all 67 Florida counties or only the one where the case originated. Judge Hinkle clarified on Thursday that the Constitution requires clerks in all 67 counties to begin issuing marriage licenses.
The ruling has also raised questions about Attorney General Pam Bondi’s ability to defend the Marriage Protection Act in court. Bondi, a Republican up for reelection in 2016 considered vulnerable due to her association with Governor Rick Scott, was previously opposed to same-sex marriage but supports it now. Critics have accused her of hypocrisy for this change in position because she has two previous divorces involving a couple who married each other.