By Bill Cotterell
TALLAHASSEE (Reuters) - The hot topic of same-sex marriage was sent to the Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday in a case brought by two women appealing a Tampa judge's denial of their divorce petition.
The Second District Court of Appeal asked the Supreme Court to rule on what it said was a matter "of great public importance and will have a great effect on the proper administration of justice throughout the state."
At issue is a 2008 amendment to the Florida Constitution approved by voters which defined marriage as the legal union of a man and a woman and denied state recognition of any other union.
Three dissenting judges argued that the issue is not whether Florida must legalize same-sex couples but whether it must recognize such marriages performed in other states.
“Resolution of the constitutional questions will no doubt impact far more individuals than the two involved here,” the District Court majority ruled.
“And there can be little doubt that until the constitutional questions are finally resolved by the Florida Supreme Court or the United States Supreme Court, there will be a great impact on the proper administration of justice in Florida.”
The case involves Mariama Monique Changamire Shaw and Keiba Lynn Shaw, who were married in Massachusetts in 2010 and moved to Florida. They separated in October and filed for divorce in January.
Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Laurel Lee dismissed their petition, saying she lacked “jurisdiction to dissolve that which does not exist under law” in Florida.
U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle on Friday ruled against the state constitution’s gay-marriage ban. Some state courts have made similar rulings and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who supports the constitutional ban, has said she wants the nation’s highest court to resolve the issue nationwide.
District Judge Chris Altenbernd wrote a dissent joined by two other judges, arguing that “the proper administration of justice” state-wide will not be jeopardized in the time it may take for the issues to wend their way through the courts.
“Given that same-sex marriages are a recent development in other states, I am not convinced that Florida’s courts will be clogged in the next three years with out–of-state same-sex couples seeking dissolution,” Altenbernd wrote.
(Editing by David Adams and Cynthia Osterman)