Saturday, January 3, 2015

3 Florida Counties Discontinue Courthouse Weddings to Avoid Possibility of Same-Sex Weddings // Updated: Now 14 Florida Counties Have Stopped Courthouse Weddings

(Originally written on 01/02/15): Have I mentioned that Florida will soon become a marriage equality state?

It seems that three counties in Florida have decided to stop all courthouse wedding ceremonies rather than perform any same-sex wedding ceremonies -- but it's not all about anti-gay animus!:
Couples who wanted to skip the pomp and circumstance of a wedding and get married at the Duval, Clay or Baker county courthouses will no longer have that option in the new year.

These counties’ decision to end the long-standing tradition of courthouse weddings is due, at least in part, to the continued debate over same-sex marriage in Florida against the backdrop of conservative Christianity...

If same-sex marriage is allowed across the state, Duval Clerk of Courts Ronnie Fussell, Clay Clerk Tara Green and Baker Clerk Stacie Harvey will have no choice but to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. But to avoid performing ceremonies for them, these clerks have decided to end all courthouse weddings.

All said multiple factors contributed to the decision to end courthouse weddings, with gay marriage being just one of them. And they said the new policies will take effect no matter what the courts decide about gay marriage...

Residents of Baker, Clay and Duval counties who want to avoid usual wedding expenses will now have to find a minister or notary to perform the ceremony after they pick up their marriage license, but a place other than the courthouse. 

Baker Clerk Harvey said the decision is as much about logistics as it is personal conviction. The room where about weddings are performed each year will now be used as space for people filling out paperwork related to domestic violence injunctions.

“I needed the space and our county we’re in the Bible Belt,” she said. “... If we’re made by the law to issue a gay marriage license (we will) do that, but we are not mandated to marry couples in our courthouse.”

Harvey said there are members of her staff who would be uncomfortable performing same-sex weddings and she did not want to force them. She said she doesn’t feel comfortable performing weddings at all, gay or straight, and hasn’t officiated a ceremony in years.

Justin Horan, general counsel for the Clay County clerk of courts, said the debate over gay marriage accelerated discussions on whether to end courthouse weddings.

“Really it just expedited our evaluation on whether to continue to offer marriage ceremonies,” he said. “We had been talking about it for several months now."
According to the linked article, about 2,200 couples choose courthouse wedding ceremonies in those counties.

I wonder how many of the clerks in this story would eventually discover that civil weddings for same-sex couples really aren't that horrible if they actually gave it a chance? Or maybe they realize that, and that's why they don't want to take that risk...

Updated on 01/03/15: Did I say three counties? Make that 14:
Although there is no authoritative list of the Florida counties that have stopped offering courthouse weddings, the counties that confirmed their decisions to the Tampa Bay Times and other news outlets include: Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Holmes, Washington, Jackson, Calhoun, Liberty, Franklin, Wakulla, Baker, Clay, Duval and Pasco.

According to Bay County's website, it no longer offers marriage ceremonies, though it is unclear when that policy was changed. The clerk of court did not respond to a request for comment.
Pretty much all of the clerks interviewed said that there were lots of reasons to stop all courthouse wedding ceremonies, but they all stopped doing them after the federal courts ruled against Florida's same-sex marriage ban in August 2014.

According to one clerk, "the problem is we can't discriminate." Their staff had religious objections to same-sex couples marrying. One assumes that they never performed religious litmus tests for opposite-sex couples who sought courthouse wedding ceremonies. One assumes. But that's the nature of anti-gay prejudice.

2 comments:

Donny Jacobs said...

Jon,

More and more the word "Christian" is becoming equated with the word "petty"!

I have a question for you and Mark: How can people ignore the Golden Rule so completely? And the directive to "render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar?" Civil marriage clearly belongs to Caesar. Religious institutions can't be forced to perform these ceremonies; but they were so eager to blend Church with State, they started performing them willingly, and now they look like the stoned bigots and hypocrites they are. My Grandmother Jacobs used to say: God don't like ugly!!!

Jon said...

I think it has to do with selfishness. I have a blog post that I'm currently working on that addresses another form of religious selfishness. Actually, two posts.

I think I need to start reading some Archie books. These latest posts are getting too gloomy...