Same-Sex Weddings At Broward Group Ceremony, But Not Marriage Equality

Jan 6, 2015

Clerk of Courts Howard Forman officiates at a mass same-sex marriage ceremony at the Broward County courthouse. About 40 of the approximately 100 couples who got marriage licenses stayed to take their vows.
Credit Rick Stone / WLRN

  In Fort Lauderdale, about 100 couples were issued legal marriage licenses starting at a minute after midnight. Some will have to endure the state's three-day waiting period before they can marry. But 30 or 40 same-sex pairs who qualified for waivers stayed behind to take their vows in a mass ceremony.

The first couple in line was the first to be married. Melissa Keller and Joanne Stiger got the special treatment of a ceremony in the court clerk's chapel with County Judge Kathleen McHugh officiating.

After the two were pronounced "lawfully married," Melissa pronounced herself ecstatic and, finally, sure of her place in the world.

"I can check off the box "married" with happiness instead of, I don't know, are we really married? So, now we really are married," she said.

The other couples awaited their licenses in the central jury room where, usually, random citizens called for jury duty wait glumly to hear their numbers called. But each of these numbers called out Tuesday morning meant the end of a wait that many thought would never be over.

John Garcia, left, and Adam DeRosa wore matching guayabera's to the courthouse that would issue their marriage license.
Credit Rick Stone / WLRN

The room was full of smiling couples of every imaginable description. Many were dressed alike. Adam DeRosa and John Garcia came in khakis and their special blue guayaberas.

"We decided to wear what we wore in our commitment ceremony," DeRosa said. "Bring 'em out of the closet and remind ourselves what we committed ourselves to in 2009. And that commitment continues today."

Finally, just after 2 a.m., Court Clerk Howard Forman gathered the couples together and married them all.

It was same-sex marriage, but not yet marriage equality.

Marriage's legal support system of laws that govern property, custody, probate and inheritance still assumes spouses of opposite gender.

Broward County family law attorney Nancy Brodzki, who applied for a marriage license Tuesday morning with her partner Lettie Oaks, said it'll be up to the Florida Bar and the state Legislature to rewrite the laws she calls "inherently discriminatory."

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