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With 11th Cir.'s Denial, Gay Marriage to Start in Fla. on Jan. 5

Add another state to the list of those that allow same-sex marriages -- unless the U.S. Supreme Court steps in first, that is.

On Wednesday, the Eleventh Circuit denied Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi's request to continue blocking same-sex marriages in the state of Florida, which means same-sex couples can start sending out save-the-dates for any time after January 5, 2015. However, there are a couple of (admittedly unlikely) ways in which the High Court could step in and prevent that from happening.

Federal Judge Tosses Fla.'s Gay Marriage Ban: 5 Takeaways

Add yet another victory to the list for same-sex marriage advocates in Florida. After victories in four counties, a federal judge made a statewide ruling earlier today. U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle in Tallahassee held that Florida's ban violates guarantees of equal protection and due process, but stayed his decision pending appeal. The decision covers both in-state and recognition of out-of-state marriages.

What's the real-world effect? Very little, for now. It's a near certainty that the Supreme Court will take on the issue of same-sex marriage during its next term, which begins this fall. Given that Judge Hinkle's opinion was stayed pending appeal, and any appeal to the Eleventh Circuit would likely not happen before SCOTUS weighs in, this is but a minor footnote, albeit a positive one.

Here are five takeaways from Judge Hinkle's ruling:

Another Fla. Court Rules for Gay Marriage; State Appeals

First it was Monroe County. Then, late last week, it was Miami-Dade County. And if the plaintiffs have their way, it'll soon be the entire state of Florida.

Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel held Friday that Florida's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional in a case that only applies to Miami-Dade County. The decision came a little more than a week after Circuit Judge Luis Garcia's similar decision in Monroe County. Both decisions are expected to be appealed, but the plaintiff-appellees in the Monroe County case are asking that the process be expedited by skipping the state appeals court and heading straight to the Florida Supreme Court.

If the motion is granted, a decision by the Florida Supreme Court would have statewide effect. If not, a parallel challenge to the state's ban in federal court could have the same effect. A decision in the federal case is expected soon.

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First Pro-Gay Marriage Ruling in Florida Arrives: 5 Takeaways

We've seen court after court after court, including a federal circuit court of appeal, rule in favor of gay marriage. But courts in the Eleventh Circuit have been conspicuously silent on the issue -- until now.

This afternoon, Monroe County Circuit Judge Luis Garica overturned Florida's 2008 constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. It's a narrow victory for gay rights proponents in Florida -- it only applies to Monroe County (the Florida Keys) -- but with four cases in the state racing towards decisions, it's a good sign of things to come, and yet another entry in a long winning streak for gay marriage nationwide.

Here are a few takeaways from the decision:

SCOTUS Overturns 11th's Mootness Ruling in Hague Convention Case

A common problem for our nation's servicemen and women is the issues that arise from international love. They fall for someone while stationed abroad but run into legal barriers with immigration, international family law, custody, and divorce if things progress through marriage and divorce.

Sgt. Jeffrey Lee Chafin fell in love with Lynne Hales Chafin when he was stationed abroad. The couple married and had a child before he was deployed to Afghanistan in 2007. Being a U.K. native, Lynn took the child to Scotland until Sgt. Chafin returned to the United States in 2010. She then moved to Huntsville, Alabama to join her husband.