FLORIDA: Three County Clerks To End All Weddings Rather Than Serve Gays

Three northeast Florida county clerks have jointly decided to end all courthouse weddings rather than perform ceremonies for same-sex couples. Via the Florida Times-Union:

If same-sex marriage is allowed across the state, 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. All said multiple factors contributed to the decision to end courthouse weddings, with gay marriage being just one of them. And they 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. “It was decided as a team, as an office, this would be what we do so that there wouldn’t be any discrimination,” Fussell said. “The easiest way is to not do them at all.” Equality Florida co-founder and chief executive Nadine Smith was shocked to hear that certain counties would stop allowing courthouse wedding because of the possibility gay couples would want to use the service. “I think it would be outrageous for clerks to change the rules simply because gay couples are getting married,” she said.

According to the above-linked report, in 2013 about one-third of the more than 6500 marriage licenses issued in the three counties resulted in courthouse weddings. Same-sex couples will still be issued marriage licenses but will have to seek out a notary or minister to officiate.

RELATED: Baker County is small and rural, with a population of only 28K. Clay County is largely a suburb of Jacksonville, with a population of 200K. Duval County, home to Jacksonville, has a population of 900K. Jacksonville is the nation’s largest city by area and is Florida’s most-populous city as its boundaries include all of Duval County.