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Ban on same-sex marriage ends in Florida

Updated: 2015-01-07 07:38
By Associated Press in Kissimmee, Florida (China Daily)

Florida's ban on same-sex marriage ended statewide at the stroke of midnight on Monday, and court clerks in some Florida counties wasted no time, issuing marriage licenses overnight to same-sex couples.

But they still were beaten to the punch by a Miami judge who found no need to wait until the statewide ban expired. Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel presided over Florida's first legally recognized same-sex marriages on Monday afternoon.

Zabel said she saw no reason why same-sex couples couldn't immediately get their marriage licenses.

Then, she married two couples, Karla Arguello and Cathy Pareto and Todd and Jeff Delmay, in her chambers, packed with supporters and news media for the historic event.

The cheers in the courthouse reflect how much the third-largest US state has changed since the 1970s, when Anita Bryant, the former beauty pageant queen and orange juice spokeswoman, started her national campaign against gay rights in Miami by successfully campaigning to overturn a Dade County ordinance banning discrimination against gays.

"It's been a long time coming," Pareto said. "Finally, Florida recognizes us as a couple. It's just sweet justice."

Other counties were eager to welcome same-sex couples to official ceremonies after midnight, when US District Judge Robert L. Hinkle's ruling that Florida's same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional took effect in all 67 counties.

Florida's attorney general, Pam Bondi, is still pursuing state and federal appeals seeking to uphold the ban that voters approved in 2008, but her effort to block these weddings until the courts finally rule was denied by the US Supreme Court.

The addition of Florida's 19.9 million people means 70 percent of Americans now live in the 36 states where gay marriage is legal - a profound change in national political terms.

Republican Jeb Bush, who opposed gay marriage while serving as Florida's governor and who now may seek the presidency, also sought a middle ground Monday.

"We live in a democracy, and regardless of our disagreements, we have to respect the rule of law," Bush said in a statement, urging people to "show respect for the good people on all sides of the gay and lesbian marriage issue - including couples making lifetime commitments to each other who are seeking greater legal protections and those of us who believe marriage is a sacrament and want to safeguard religious liberty."

Broward Clerk Howard Forman planned to officiate at a mass wedding overnight at his county courthouse, and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer planned to do the same at the city hall later in the morning. Churches throughout the state were holding mass weddings for same-sex couples on Tuesday.

But while the news was largely met with cheers or even shrugs from Florida's more liberal enclaves, signs of opposition were evident farther north, where more conservative Floridians live.

In Jacksonville, Duval County Court Clerk Ronnie Fussell shut down the courthouse chapel, saying no marriage ceremonies would be allowed there. At least two other counties in northeast Florida did the same.


 Ban on same-sex marriage ends in Florida

Newlyweds Karla Arguello (left) and Cathy Pareto walk out of the Miami-Dade courthouse on Monday as the first couple to marry in Florida after Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel presided over a ceremony in her courtroom on Monday in Miami, Florida. Joe Raedle / Getty Images / AFP


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