Florida’s constitutional amendment banning gay marriage was passed by 62 percent of voters in 2008. But various lower court rulings last year found the ban to be unconstitutional, and federal judge Robert Hinkle agreed.
Now, same sex couples can marry in Florida, but four states have gay marriage cases pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Originally published on Wed January 28, 2015 6:10 pm
Same-sex marriage gets a hearing in the U.S. Supreme Court this April, and in Florida, the Attorney General is making a familiar argument against a piecemeal approach.
Florida began issuing same-sex marriage licenses at the beginning of this month. At the time, officials argued the federal ruling throwing out the state’s marriage ban was narrow and only applied to the couples named in the case. Wednesday Attorney General Pam Bondi argued the greatest harm is lack of consistency.
Florida is the 36th state to allow same-sex marriage. While the court challenges continue, newlyweds and those who married out-of-state now have their marriages legally recognized extending the legal and financial rights brought by marriage.
After the big emotions of the wedding day come the economics of marriage: insurance, taxes, wills, bank accounts, property titles, credit card accounts, etcetera.
Thousands of gay Floridians have gotten married since January 6, when their unions became legal in the state. Thousands more are now recognized as married if they wed in a place that allowed gay marriage prior to Florida's ban on same-sex marriages being overturned by a federal judge.
Just after midnight on Tuesday morning, gay marriage became legal in Florida. But the first marriages started in Miami-Dade County about twelve hours earlier.
It was about 11:30 in the morning. Judge Sarah Zabel held a hearing and decided there was no need to wait. She lifted the stay on her ruling declaring Florida's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.
And gay couples could start getting married right away.
Our reporter John O'Connor was at the courthouse. And we had people at courthouses in Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, too.
As soon as same-sex marriage became legal in Florida, the Keys tourism council was on LGBT websites and blogs advertising the islands as a wedding destination.
“The Florida Keys has long been a popular destination for weddings and honeymoons,” said Harold Wheeler, director of the Monroe County Tourist Development Council. He’s hoping the same will apply for same-sex couples.
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.
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.
At 12:18 a.m. Tuesday, the two men who won the first ruling overturning Florida's ban on gay marriage became the first gay couple to get married in Monroe County.
Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones exchanged vows in front of 500 people — including close friends, attorneys, total strangers, TV crews and a few tourists.
The Rev. Steve Torrance, a chaplain with the Key West Police Department and minister with the Metropolitan Community Church declared them legally married, and the couple was greeted with cheers, applause and the sound of a conch shell.
In downtown Delray Beach Monday night, same-sex couples who gathered to get hitched in a group wedding were greeted by balloons, flowers and dancing in the streets.
The doors of the South County Courthouse opened at 10:30 p.m. so marriage licenses could be processed before the ceremony. By then, dozens of couples were lined up outside, and a few started slow-dancing on the sidewalk after someone docked an iPod to a speaker.
Shortly after midnight, about 80 couples exchanged vows in a civil ceremony presided over by County Clerk Sharon Bock.
Robert Collier and Charles Hunziger have been together for 52 years.
They are one of nine same sex couples who sued Florida to recognize their marriages in a federal case that ultimately struck down the state’s gay marriage ban Tuesday.
Collier and Hunziger say they never meant to become gay activists, to be plaintiffs in a lawsuit that would change Florida law. But as they started getting older, they started thinking about how they wanted to leave things better than they were for them.
Same-sex couples and their attorneys in Miami celebrate Circuit Court Judge Sarah Zabel’s decision to lift the legal stay she had placed on her July decision declaring Florida’s gay-marriage ban unconstitutional.
Miami-Dade County will become the first place in Florida to allow same-sex couples to marry on Monday, 10 hours before a gay-marriage ban that has been ruled unconstitutional is lifted in the rest of the state.
In an 11 a.m. hearing, Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel lifted the legal stay she had placed on her sweeping July decision declaring the ban discriminatory.
“In the big picture, does it really matter whether or not I lift the stay or leave it until tomorrow?” she said from the bench. “I’m lifting the stay.”
2015 began with a clarification over same-sex marriages in Florida. All county clerks can issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples beginning Tuesday, Jan. 6.
Before that happens, take a moment to hear this interview with the Miami Herald's Steve Rothaus. You'll learn all the background info you need to understand what's going on in the courts locally and in Tallahassee.
UPDATE Jan. 2, 4:23 p.m.: A spokesperson from the Palm Beach County Clerk of Court's office said clerk Sharon Bock will perform a group wedding for gay couples at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.
The office will begin processing same-sex marriage licenses at 10:30 p.m. Monday.
A statement from Monroe County's Clerk of Courts says that office will process up to 100 marriage-license applications during regular office hours Monday, issuing the first licenses at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.
Aaron Huntsman and William Jones, plaintiffs in a case challenging Florida's ban on gay marriage, rode a giant wedding cake down Duval Street as grand marshals of the 2014 Fantasy Fest parade. Next week, they plan to get married for real.