How a Judge Made the Gay Marriage Debate Even More Confusing

AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic
AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic

A US District Court judge named Robert Hinkle decided last August that two gay men in Washington Country, Florida could not be stopped from getting married and that the Florida law making it a misdemeanor for a county clerk to issue a marriage license to same-sex couples violated the US Constitution.

He then stayed his decision until this coming Monday at midnight.

In the meantime, came a clamor that he clarify his decision so that it would include more than Washington County, Florida, that it would encompass the entire state of Florida. The plaintiffs in the current case, which included the county clerk and other officials, asked for his clarification. They asserted that his decision in August meant only that they were bound to issue a marriage license to the single couple that brought the case but to no other same-sex couples and that his decision would therefore end at the borders of Washington County.

Judge Hinkle issued his clarification on New Year’s Day and, according to the public interest law firm Liberty Counsel that filed a brief in the case, the judge has admitted the local clerk was only bound to issue a license to the single couple that brought the case in the first place.

Liberty Counsel’s Chief Litigation Counsel Harry Mihet told Breitbart News that the clarification makes it clear that the decision begins and ends with the two original plaintiffs and therefore does not extend beyond Washington County.

But in his clarification, the judge threw a bit of a fit: “History records no shortage of instances when state officials defied federal court orders on issues of federal constitutional law. Happily, there are many more instances when responsible officials followed the law, like it or not.”

And Hinkle also introduced some confusion that the mainstream press in Florida was happy to run with. He wrote, “The preliminary injunction now in effect thus does not require the Clerk to issue licenses to other applicants. But as set out in the order that announced issuance of the preliminary injunction, the Constitution requires the Clerk to issue such licenses.”

Liberty Counsel’s Mihet told Breitbart that the judge’s jurisdiction in this case extends only to this case and not beyond, but that has not stopped the mainstream press from misrepresenting his clarification.

The Miami Herald reported “Federal ruling clears way for same-sex marriage in Florida starting on Tuesday.”

The Palm Beach Post reported, “Gay marriage will begin across Florida on Tuesday.”

The Tampa Bay Times reported, “Judge Hinkle says all 67 counties may issue marriage licenses to gay couples.”

What will the law say in Florida on Tuesday? Harry Mihet insists it is now, and will be on Tuesday, “a misdemeanor for a county clerk to issue a marriage license to anyone other than a man and a woman.