Aug Sept 2016
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Florida Counties Dismantling Marriage Services to Prevent Officiating Same-Sex Weddings

Florida Counties Dismantling Marriage Services to Prevent Officiating Same-Sex Weddings

Clerks in five Florida counties are getting rid of courthouse marriages to prevent having to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies.

Ronnie Fussell, the clerk of courts for Duval County, says the county courts have decided not to perform same-sex wedding because it was best for all those involved. It was the personal views of him and his staff that ultimately led to that decision.

“It was decided as a team, as an office, this would be what we do so that there wouldn’t be any discrimination. The easiest way is to not do them at all,” Fussell told The (Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union. “I believe marriage is between a man and woman. Personally, it would go against my beliefs to perform a ceremony that is other than that.”

Baker, Clay, Okaloosa and Santa Rosa counties are following Duval County’s lead and axing courthouse weddings for everybody, according to USA Today. There has been backlash and voiced opposition to the courts’ decision to get rid of marriages in courthouse, something taxpayers pay to maintain.

“They’ve had a difficult time for years as it is, getting their relationships acknowledged,” Belkis Plata, an attorney of Plata Schott Attorneys & Counselors at Law, told USA Today. “Now that they’ve had this huge victory, now they’re being shut down somewhere else. We want to help them as much as we can.”

Duval County has been in the heart of the argument for marriage equality statewide. Two couples filed lawsuits with the state of Florida; one couple demanding the right to marry and the other couple demanding their marriage from another state be recognized by Florida.

Federal Judge Robert L. Hinkle of Tallahassee invalidated the constitutional amendment, Amendment 2, which outlawed same-sex marriage throughout Florida. Three out of 5 Floridians voted in favor of the measure to block marriage rights to the Florida LGBT community.

Hinkle placed a stay on the ruling until end of day Jan. 5 and allows for same-sex marriages to start the very next day. Leading up to the date, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi fought relentlessly against marriage equality exhausting every possible option to halt marriage. After exhausting all attempts within the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and attempting to expedite the case to the Florida Supreme Court, Bondi petitioned Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Thomas, who could have decided the issue of the stay extension alone, took the matter to the full panel and the extension was denied.

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