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Kimmy Denny and her partner, Barb Lawrence, outside a court hearing on gay marriage in Miami on July 2. / J Pat Carter, AP

MIAMI (AP) - Attorneys for a Florida Keys gay couple turned Wednesday to a state appeals court to lift a judge's order blocking them from getting married.

The Miami-based 3rd District Court of Appeal was asked to overturn a Monroe County judge's decision earlier this week preventing a wedding for Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones and other gay couples.

Circuit Judge Luis Garcia last week ruled that Florida's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional because it discriminates against gay couples and violates the federal 14th Amendment's guarantee of due process and equal protection under the law. Garcia's initial order said marriage licenses could be issued to gays in Monroe County beginning Tuesday.

Attorney General Pam Bondi immediately filed notice of appeal, triggering an automatic stay that prevents any gay marriages until a potentially months-long appeals process is sorted out. Garcia on Monday declined to lift the stay because of the state's appeal, leading to Wednesday's action by the gay couple's lawyers.

There was no immediate indication when the appeals court would rule on the stay issue.

Voters added the same-sex marriage ban to Florida's constitution is 2008, defining marriage only as a union between one man and one woman. Legal challenges to the amendment are also pending in Miami-Dade County and in federal court in Tallahassee, and supporters of gay marriage have won more than 20 legal decisions around the country in similar cases during the past year.

Bondi had no immediate comment on the latest appeal. An attorney for the Keys couple, Bernadette Restivo, said she had unsuccessfully suggested to the attorney general's office that they jointly take the Monroe County case directly to the Florida Supreme Court to save time, money and to get a definitive ruling for the entire state.

"Everyone knows it's going to go to the Supreme Court anyway," Restivo said.

Currently, 19 states and the District of Columbia permit gay marriages. The remaining state bans are all under legal challenge.

Bondi said in appealing the Monroe County ruling that the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately will decide the gay marriage question for states with bans such as Florida.



Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Read the original story: Appeals court asked to unblock Florida gay marriage

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