Florida Marriage Equality Is Still in Jeopardy

Marriage is starting this week in Florida. So why are our opponents saying it's not? We'll take a look at what's really going on, and how they're still trying to stop the weddings. Also this week: oral argument in Louisiana could get pretty heated. Another Supreme Court conference. And some surprising polling.

After a lot of confusion, the picture's finally clearing up in Florida. And it's looking pretty good: last week US District Judge Robert Hinkle issued a ruling that basically boils down to two important points: his injunction doesn't require the state's clerks to issue marriage licenses, but the U.S. Constitution does. In other words, marriage will start on January 6th in Florida.

But amazingly, a couple of anti-gay groups are calling this a victory, still claiming that marriage shouldn't start this week. Depending on who you listen to, they're saying that the judge has no authority, or the marriages should only be happening in one county, or only the couples who sued can get married. If that all sounds to weird to be true, it's probably because it isn't true. They're wrong. Marriage starts Tuesday of this week. Congratulations Florida.

But it doesn't end here. There are still a bunch of Florida marriage cases waiting to be heard in both state and federal court. Although the schedule's murky, the next ruling could be in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. It's possible that the 11th Circuit could reverse Judge Hinkle's ruling, and then marriages might have to stop. But it's also pretty unlikely. Last month the 11th Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court both allowed marriages to start in Florida, which is a good sign that they expect to uphold the freedom to marry.

But even if things go great, Florida could still have a bumpy transition to marriage equality. A few counties are still doing what little they can to make life difficult for LGBTs. Over a dozen offices have decided to stop conducting courthouse weddings for everyone, rather than allow them for gay and lesbian couples. You can still get your license and take it somewhere else to have a wedding. Those clerks just don't want to have to see you getting married, which is a really nice message to send to someone on their wedding day.

There's going to be big news on Friday of this week. First, the Supreme Court will meet to decide whether to take up a marriage case from the Sixth Circuit in its next term. We won't know their decision right away, but we could find out next week or sometime soon thereafter. Also on Friday, the Fifth Circuit will hear oral argument in the long-awaited cases from Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi. The three judges assigned to the panel are an interesting mix: Judge James Graves Jr is a recent Obama nominee. Judge Patrick Higginbotham is a Regan appointee but calls himself left-of-center. And Judge Jerry Smith is a super outspoken conservative. There could be some very fiery rhetoric at that oral argument.

A new survey in Nebraska shows that unlike every other state, support for marriage is pretty much unchanged over the last couple of years. From 2011 to today, attitudes really haven't shifted statewide, with opposition hovering a bit higher than support year after year. There's hearing in a Nebraska lawsuit at the end of this month. Higher levels of public support would be helpful to that lawsuit, so we'll just have to see what happens.