PHOTOS: Florida's Same-Sex Couples Are Getting Married

While same-sex couples in Florida's most populous county, Miami-Dade, began legally marrying Monday, couples statewide were able to apply for marriage licenses beginning at 12:01a.m. today.

Even the state's Republican Attorney General, Pam Bondi — who has employed every legal tactic available (including unsuccessfully petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court) to keep Florida from becoming a marriage equality state — essentially conceded defeat on Monday evening. 

"The judge has ruled, and we wish these couples the best," Bondi's press secretary told The Associated Press in an email. Bondi's office didn't even bother to send a representative to Monday's hearing in a Miami-Dade courthouse, and offered no objection when state judge Sarah Zabel announced she was lifting a stay placed on her pro-equality ruling, allowing same-sex couples to begin marrying in that county Monday afternoon.

RELATED: Watch the moment the plaintiff couples in Miami-Dade learned they'd be able to marry thier same-sex partner

Just hours after judge Zabel lifted the stay on her July ruling striking down the state's ban on marriage equality, Zabel promptly officiated the weddings of two of the same-sex couples whose lawsuit helped secure the freedom to marry in Miami-Dade County. (See photos of the Sunshine State's first same-sex newlyweds below.)

Thanks to an August ruling from U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle, same-sex couples throughout the Sunshine State begal legally marrying just after midnight on Tuesday morning. Judge Hinkle's initial ruling was accompanied by a stay until "the end of the day" on January 5, and despite repeated efforts by Attorney General Bondi to delay the arrival of marriage equality, Hinkle's stay was allowed to expire at midnight. After a last-ditch effort by Bondi's office tried to claim that the lawsuit impacted only the counties listed in the suit, Hinkle clarified on New Year's Day that his ruling is indeed binding throughout the state, and requires all county clerks to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. 

Florida now becomes the 36th U.S. state (plus the District of Columbia) to embrace marriage equality, and brings the total percentage of Americans living in marriage equality states to a staggering 70 percent, according to the Human Rights Campaign. 

RELATED: Everything You Need to Know About Marriage Equality in Florida

In anticipation of an avalanche of applicants Tuesday, several counties opened their Clerk of the Courts offices (which are responsible for issuing marriage licenses) early on Tuesday. 

The Osceola County Clerk's Office opened from midnight to 2 a.m, reports the Tampa Bay Times. Clerks in Monroe County, which includes Key West, also opened their office at 11:30 p.m. Monday night, ready to issue at least 100 marriage licenses to eager same-sex couples at the stroke of midnight. 

As a result, Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones, the Key West-based plaintiffs who filed one of four state-level lawsuits taking aim at Florida's ban on same-sex marriage, were the first same-sex couple to marry in Key West, a southern coastal region popular with LGBT residents and tourists. The couple broadcast their nuptials live on YouTube, and local media shared photos of the happy newlyweds: 

State law mandates a three-day waiting period for Florida residents between the initial application and receiving a marriage license, but clerks in some counties have indicated a willingness to waive that waiting period on a case-by-case basis. Clerks in Hillsborough County have offered to waive the three-day waiting period for same-sex couples, according to

Most county clerks offices opened as scheduled at 8 a.m. today, when they are legally required to begin accepting marriage applications from same-sex couples. 

But more than a dozen counties in the Florida panhandle, a traditionally conservative region, have stopped performing any marriages, rather than allow same-sex couples access to the institution. 

The Tampa Bay Times reports that Pasco County's clerk of court is one of at least 13 clerks instructing employees to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but refuse to grant a courthouse wedding to any couple. Instead, newly licensed couples will have to find their own officiant and have their union solemnized elsewhere.

Pasco County, located near Tampa Bay, is the the only county outside the state's northern panhandle region that is refusing to marry any couples in order to avoid marrying same-sex partners. 

"It was an easy decision to make," Clerk of Court Paula O'Neil told the Tampa Bay Times. While she said some of her motivation was financial — not wanting to add extra work for her clerks, who she said were already overburdened — O'Neil admitted she had personal and religious objections to marriage equality, as well. Most of her employees responsible for issuing marriage licenses were "uncomfortable" with the idea of issuing such licenses to same-sex couples, she told the Times. 

"The problem is we can't discriminate," O'Neil continued. "So there are some [employees] who would have wanted to transfer to another area [of duty], and we can't transfer everyone."

The Times notes that there is no comprehensive list of which counties are refusing to marry any couples as to avoid marrying same-sex partners, but 13 counties confirmed to the Times that such action is their current policy: Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Holmes, Washington, Jackson, Calhoun, Liberty, Franklin, Wakulla, Baker, Clay, Duval and Pasco. Bay County's website indicates that it no longer offers marriages, though it's unclear when that policy took effect, notes the Times. 

"Being a very small county, our staff numbers are very low and workload is quite high," Holmes County Clerk of Court Kyle Hudson told the Times. "Therefore, we will not be performing ceremonies for any couples, regardless of sexual preference."

Similarly, Okaloosa County Clerk of Court J.D. Peacock II indicated he didn't want to put his employees in a situation that might conflict with their personal religious convictions. 

"I do not want to have members of our team put in a situation which presents a conflict between their personal religious beliefs and the implementation of a contentious societal philosophy change," Peacock wrote in a memo to his staff obtained by the Times.

As LGBT Floridians finally enjoy the right to equal marriage, keep checking back here for the latest photos of newlywed same-sex couples.