The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday refused to block gay marriages in Florida, the latest of about three dozen states allowing same-sex weddings.
In a one-paragraph order, the court decided not to step into the Florida case. A federal judge previously declared Florida's ban on gay marriage unconstitutional and said same-sex marriagelicenses could start being issued in the state after Jan. 5 unless the Supreme Court intervened.
Most federal judges and appeals courts have ruled against state bans, but the 6th U.S. CircuitCourt of Appeals in Cincinnati has upheld the right of four states to decide whether to allowgay marriage.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has fought to uphold Florida's constitutional ban, which voters approved in 2008.
Bondi said if the ban was struck down, some, but not all, county clerks in Florida would begin issuing marriage licenses, causing confusion throughout the state. She said that would happen because the lawsuit against Florida's ban only named the clerk in tiny Washington County in the Panhandle.
The state clerks association has warned its members that they could be risking misdemeanor prosecution under state law if they issue licenses before the question is fully settled. It is unclear how many plan to take that advice.
State judges in four South Florida counties have declared the same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional, but those decisions are also being appealed by Bondi and no marriage licenses have been issued.
U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle in August declared the state's ban unconstitutional, but he put his ruling on hold until after Jan. 5 pending appeals.
Like many other judges and appellate courts, Hinkle ruled the state's gay marriage ban violates the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal protection.