Five Florida Counties Plan To End Courthouse Ceremonies To Avoid Marrying Gays

equalityOn Tuesday morning, same-sex couples in Florida will finally have the right to get married. Slowly but surely, state by state, marriage equality is becoming the rule, not the exception across the United States.

A little over a decade ago, the idea of two men or two women getting married was almost unthinkable. How the times and our culture have changed – except in the deepest, reddest pockets of America. Here in the Bible Belt, conservative Christian opposition to marriage equality remains staunch, even in the face of the fact that 35 states have extended the right to marry to consenting adult couples regardless of gender.

In preparation for the expiration of the ban on gay marriage in Florida, most courthouses throughout the state were probably making sure that they were stocked up on office supplies and everything else that comes along with a small rise in clerk of court duties. Most courthouses, except for five in the most conservative parts of the state.

If same-sex marriage is allowed, 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.

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

Fussell says the decision came after a series of discussion with members of his staff who currently officiate wedding ceremonies. None of them, including Fussell, felt comfortable doing gay weddings so they decided to end the practice all together, he said.

…Clerks of courts in Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties in the Panhandle also made similar announcements that they were ending courthouse ceremonies. (Source)

As someone who lived in Florida for over five years, I am not surprised that these extremely conservative counties decided to miss out on revenues, simply out of religious beliefs. For three years, I lived next to Okaloosa County and I can tell you that pretty much the entire state of Florida along the I-10 corridor may very well be the most right-wing area in the entire country. If it isn’t, it’s running a damn close second place to Harrison, Arkansas, where billboards with messages from the KKK currently stand.

“Traditional, Christian family values” is really nothing more than an excuse to terrorize kids like Leelah Alcorn and deny equal rights under the law based on a twisted, hateful interpretation of religious texts. Last time I checked, the First Amendment forbids the government from favoring one religion over another under the Establishment Clause – but that’s exactly what these five Florida counties are doing. In other words, they’re discontinuing services traditionally provided by their county government in order to inconvenience same-sex couples who are unfortunate enough to live within those counties. They’re also citing logistics as part of the reason they will no longer perform marriage ceremonies, but they’re not even really trying to hide that this is about religion.

Baker Clerk Harvey said the decision is as much about logistics as it is personal conviction. The room where 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. (Source)

Even though much of the rest of the country is coming to grips with the reality of marriage equality and finding more important things to worry about, the Bible Belt will have to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century. It’s a shame that the people who claim to love and follow Jesus are the absolute polar opposites of what his message was supposed to be about.


Facebook comments

  • XaurreauX Pont DeLac

    Secularism is for grownups.

  • Jim Valley

    These desperate attempts to hold back the tide are sad and pathetic.

  • Adam of Portland

    I doubt ending the ceremonies is legal. Courthouses perform required services, so refusing to marry anyone would be like no longer having small claims cases or no longer handling child custody cases. Each court has duties to perform, unless the courthouse is planning to not exist at all.

  • NewEnglander58

    Escambia County (Pensacola) has announced it will be issuing licenses and performing marriages. At least one Panhandle County got it right…

  • GenerallyConfused

    “We don’t want gay people to be married, so no one can!” – Florida

    Cause that always works.

  • He Hate Cans

    This is the Bible belt and sorry we just don’t have the space to accommodate people who love each other, not with all these domestic violence injunctions we need to fill out.

  • tmac

    Another example of ignorance! Stupid is as stupid does. Will they also stop issuing concealed weapon permits? Hunting permits? Building permits? Gays also use these services! Maybe stop collecting property taxes from gays!

  • Eg Kbbs

    Considering that the judge followed up the opinion with a bluntly worded document that the judgement applied to all of Florida and not just the county in the suit, doesn’t it seem kind of dangerous to try some cutesy trick to avoid following the judge’s order ????

    Doesn’t matter if it is not issuing any marriage licenses or stopping in-courthouse marriages. Don’t spit in the face of the person with the robe.

  • Cemetery Girl

    They continue to issue and file marriage certificate applications, is there a legal requirement that a county courthouse is required to preform marriages? They will still handle the paperwork needed to make a marriage legal, I’m not grasping why the courthouse refusing to preform any marriages at all is such a huge issue. Yes, their reason is something I find disagreeable, but this just means someone else will step forward to fill the gap. It takes very little effort to be able to legally preform a marriage ceremony. Go online, spend a little time “learning” about the ministry of whatever church (The Reformed Church of Sparkly Ewoks, whatever), print the certificate, file the appropriate paperwork (and fee) with the state, and you are all set to legally marry anyone that has the certificate for you to sign and bothers to file it. As if there aren’t going to be people that are willing to go through that to be able to officiate at a wedding for a small fee (I’m sure the courthouse wasn’t free either) for anyone, hetero or homosexual. There will be.