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Marriage-license forms in Florida Keys changed for same-sex couples, pending state appeal

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KEY WEST, Florida — Marriage-license forms in the Florida Keys have been changed to accommodate same-sex couples, even though a judge's ruling that gays can marry in Monroe County has been stayed pending a state appeal.

Since Judge Luis M. Garcia ruled Thursday, siding with same-sex couples in the Keys who challenged Florida's voter-approved ban on gay marriage as discriminatory, the county clerk's office has been inundated with calls from people making plans to fly to Key West for their weddings, said Ron Saunders, the attorney for the clerk's office.

The clerk's office changed its forms even though Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi's appeal created an automatic stay preventing any same-sex marriage licenses from being issued.

"The current vows say 'husband and wife,' and we changed them to 'first spouse, second spouse,'" Saunders told The Miami Herald (http://hrld.us/WkyFen). "But with the stay, we are now in limbo."

Bondi said the voters' will must be respected. An overwhelming majority in 2008 approved a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union solely between one man and one woman.

The bartenders who sued Monroe County Clerk of Court Amy Heavilin for refusing them a marriage license in April, Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones, celebrated Garcia's ruling and are considering what to do next, said their attorney, Bernadette Restivo. They could wait until the appeals process is over or they could ask Garcia to lift the automatic stay.

"There's a whole process about doing that. We don't file something in court that's not our best work. There's no rush," said Restivo. "It's a marathon, not a sprint. It's going to have to run its course."

Two other challenges of Florida's marriage ban are pending in court. Attorneys for gay couples in Miami-Dade County argue that denying marriage to gay parents stigmatizes their adopted children, making them second-class citizens. Another case, in federal court in Tallahassee, would force Florida to allow gay marriage as well as recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.


Information from: The Miami Herald, http://www.herald.com

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