Liberty Counsel: Florida same-sex marriage judge 'should be impeached'

by Joni B. Hannigan , Editorial Staff |

Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court

ORLANDO, Fla. (Christian Examiner) -- The head of Orlando-based Liberty Counsel Friday said he has "no confidence" in the Supreme Court announcement it will consider four cases involving same-sex marriage from Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, and Michigan.

Although the January 16 announcement is expected by some to end the national debate over same-sex marriage by essentially declaring the federal government's recognition of gay marriage and set a precedence which states must follow -- Mat Staver said he anticipates a "major backlash in Florida."

Mat Staver

Staver heads the Orlando-based international, non-profit litigation and policy organization that filed five Florida lawsuits in reaction to what he characterized as "overzealous judges" and others who not only demanded county clerks issue licenses for same-sex marriages, but also performed those marriages.

To avoid the chaos in Florida—the nation's third largest state—with nearly 20 million people, Staver told Christian Examiner the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals should have stayed a recent decision that had same-sex couples rushing to get married Jan. 5, despite ongoing appeals.

The Marriage Protection Act (Amendment 2) was approved by 60 percent of Florida voters in 2008 and then in 2014 declared unconstitutional by a federal district court judge in Tallahassee and a Florida circuit judge in Miami-Dade County.

Both judges initially stayed their decisions pending appeals, but Jan. 5, just before the stay set by the Tallahassee judge was set to expire, Florida Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel, according to the New York Times, married two of the six couples who had sued the county over the ban.

(REUTERS/Javier Galeano)Same-sex couples Todd (2nd R), and Jeff Delmay with Catherina Pareto and Karla Arguello (L) get married at the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court of Florida in Miami, Florida, Jan. 5, 2015. Florida's first same-sex weddings began in Miami on Monday, shortly before gay and lesbian couples were to begin tying the knot elsewhere in the 36th U.S. state to legalize such marriages. Judge Sarah Zabel later presided over the marriages of two Florida couples in ceremonies witnessed by a throng of media.

"In Florida they have gone too far," Staver said of the judges. "They have overreached. The logical thing is that the judges should have stayed their decisions. The fact that they didn't, reveals their judicial activism and shows they wanted to rush their decision on same-sex marriage."

The actions of the judges "puts the judiciary on trial rather than same-sex marriage on trial," according to Staver who said actions like this cause the courts to lose their power because they have gone past the intent of their jurisdiction.

"The courts have been derelict in their duty," Staver said, adding that Zabel, the Miami-Dade judge—who presided over same-sex marriages while there is an ongoing case in the courti—is clearly "not objective but should be impeached."

Liberty Counsel has filed an amicus brief with the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of the American Family Association of Michigan, a coauthor of the Michigan Marriage Amendment.

In the ruling affirming natural marriage laws, the Sixth Circuit based its decision on Baker v. Nelson, stating that it was still good law, an LC release states. In the Baker decision—in which the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that a law defining marriage as between one man and one woman did not violate the U.S. Constitution—the United States Supreme Court ruled that there was no federal question and Baker became precedent.

"Marriage is not merely a creation of any one civilization or its statutes, but is an institution older than the Constitution and, indeed, older than any laws of any nation," Staver said. "Marriage is a natural bond that society or religion can only 'solemnize.'"

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