Fla. AG wants US Supreme Court to decide gay marriage issue

Constitutional experts say decision for state courts to make


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Attorney General Pam Bondi is defending her decision to delay appeals in four cases where Florida judges have ruled the state's ban on gay marriages is unconstitutional.

Bondi wants the U.S. Supreme Court to decide the issue, but constitutional experts said the decision is for state courts to make.

A gay couple married in New York has filed for divorce in Florida. The couple isn't comfortable telling their story, but attorney Rob McNeely said the case is no different than any other failed marriage.

"It didn't work out. They have both dealt with it from the emotional level and they are ready to move on," said McNeely. "Florida won't let them move on."

Bondi wants to delay appeals in state courts until there is a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court.

"What do we have happening now? We have someone getting married in one state and they can't get divorced in another," said Bondi. "So the U.S. Supreme Court, they need to decide this case."

But the Tallahassee couple argues the ban violates equal protection and privacy clauses in the state Constitution. Their attorney said Bondi's effort to avoid a state appeal is causing more pain for the already disgruntled spouses.

"They are caught in this legal purgatory where the only way they can get a divorce, according to Florida, is to go back to New York," said McNeely.

Constitutional experts said the attorney general is wrong. They said state courts, not federal courts, should be deciding state constitutional law.

"If it's under a state Constitution equal protection clause, then that would be a matter of state law," said Florida State University constitutional law professor Mark Seidenfeld.

Even if some state bans on same-sex marriages are upheld, legal scholars said Florida's unique Constitution can only be interpreted by the state's highest court.

Bondi hasn't expressed a personal opinion on gay marriage, but said she is sworn to uphold the will of the people.

Attorneys general in other states have taken the opposite tack, refusing to defend gay marriage bans.