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Florida asks state courts to wait on gay marriage rulings until US Supreme Court decides

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GAINESVILLE, Florida — Florida judges should stop ruling on same-sex marriage cases until the U.S. Supreme Court decides whether states can ban gay marriage, the state's attorney general said Friday.

Attorney General Pam Bondi filed motions in the Miami-based 3rd District Court of Appeal, requesting a freeze on two cases concerning the state's constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Voters approved the amendment in 2008.

Judges in four Florida counties — Palm Beach, Monroe, Miami-Dade and Broward — have overturned the ban, but no marriage licenses have been issued because Bondi has appealed.

Bondi, a Republican, said the state will defer to the Supreme Court and that any further state proceedings are a waste of taxpayer money and judicial resources.

Utah and Oklahoma this week asked the Supreme Court to decide the issue, and while the court is not obligated to take the cases, Bondi argued the court will likely weigh in.

"Despite the vigorous policy and legal debates surrounding same-sex marriage, there is little disagreement about this: If the United States Supreme Court holds that states must sanction same-sex marriage, then Florida's contrary laws must fall," Bondi wrote.

The motions address two cases that involve same-sex couples who successfully argued the 2008 ban violates their 14th Amendment guarantee of due process and equal protection under the law.

Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida Institute Inc., a civil rights legal organization representing one of the couples, said Bondi is stalling because she doesn't think her appeals will work.

"She knows she has no arguments worthy of making, and that her appeal is simply a waste of taxpayer money," Smith said. "But rather than say so and back away from the appeals, this is her attempt to take the pressure off."

Bondi's office reiterated that the move would save money and that Florida will respect the Supreme Court's decision.

Some gay marriage opponents applauded Bondi's motions, saying an approval by Florida judges that could later be overturned by the high court is unfair to everyone.

"This really is the most fair and responsible thing that she could do," said John Stemberger, president of the Florida Family Policy Council, which supported the 2008 amendment.

Still, because it is an election year, some gay marriage supporters charged Bondi with playing politics.

"These families should not suffer just because our attorney general has chosen a legal strategy that has plagued her with awkward and embarrassing media coverage as she runs for re-election," said Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida.


Jason Dearen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/JHDearen

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