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Oct 14, 11:44 AM EDT

Florida AG wants high court ruling on gay marriage



TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who has repeatedly called it her duty to defend the state's ban on gay marriage, now wants the state's highest court to decide whether the constitutional amendment is legal.

Bondi's office filed a request late Monday with the 3rd District Court of Appeal in Miami that asks the court to immediately send two consolidated cases to the Florida Supreme Court for a decision. In both cases, judges declared the state's gay marriage ban unconstitutional.

This marks a turnabout for Bondi, who this summer opposed a similar suggestion. The move also could speed up the timing of final decision.

"Although this Court routinely handles important constitutional questions and is equipped to do so, this particular issue now requires a prompt Florida Supreme Court decision," the filing says. It also notes a need to act now "in light of changed circumstances."

This month, the U.S. Supreme Court turned away appeals from five states seeking to prohibit gay and lesbian unions. The terse decision paved the way for gay marriage in those states.

Bondi had repeatedly vowed to keep fighting to maintain the state's ban until the U.S. Supreme Court acted. Voters approved Florida's ban on same-sex marriage in 2008. Gov. Rick Scott, whose agencies are being sued in one federal case, has defended Bondi's actions so far.

Nadine Smith with Equality Florida said that while her group looks forward to having the case resolved by the state Supreme Court she said that both Bondi and Scott "continue to waste taxpayer money while same-sex couples throughout the state continue to endure the indignities of being treated like second-class citizens."

"How much longer must loving couples in Florida wait to protect their families?" Smith asked in a statement.

If the state Supreme Court takes up the two cases, it's unclear how soon it would rule. The high court would likely require both sides to submit legal briefs and could schedule a hearing before making a decision.

A separate federal case also could be decided before then.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle this summer ruled Florida's ban on gay marriage unconstitutional, but stayed the ruling until other cases around the country were resolved. He said at the time he would not allow any change until 90 days after the resolution of other cases that were pending with the Supreme Court.

But lawyers representing the couples in that case have asked Hinkle to dissolve the stay after the U.S. Supreme Court turned down the appeals from other states.

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