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Legal, Economic Doors Open For Married Gay Couples in FL

Sandra Averhart

  Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is not giving clear answers on whether she will keep up a legal battle over the state's ban on gay marriage. Once the ceremonies are over, couples will have some newly-opened doors.

Tallahassee Federal Judge Robert Hinkle ruled last year that Florida’s constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, approved by voters in 2008, is unconstitutional. When his stay expired on Monday, same-sex couples began tying the knot throughout the state.

Bondi, who was sworn in for a second term as AG on Monday, has appealed the ruling but it’s unclear what her next step will be.

And the legal battle is not yet over. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to give the final word on gay marriage during its current term, or by next term at the latest.

Doug Landreth, with the group Gay Grassroots of Northwest Florida, believes this signals a new era of understanding the deservedness and need for equal protection for lesbians and gays that’s sweeping the country.

After the ceremonies, the newly married same-sex couples will find, if they don’t already know, that when it comes to legal rights and responsibilities, the playing field enjoyed by heterosexual couples has risen up and is now level for them as well.

The direction the gay marriage issue is taking, says Landreth, will serve to free up the LGBT community to work on what he calls “other areas of unfinished business.” Those include transgendered personnel in the U.S. military and homelessness numbers among LGBT youth.

Landreth says gay weddings will also lead to a boost in the tourism industry. He cites a report from the Williams Institute, a think tank at UCLA, that says gay weddings are projected to mean another $182 million for the Florida economy.

Part of that tourism boost likely will involve same-sex couples from Georgia, Alabama and other Southern states – who are expected to exchange vows in Florida.