News (USA)

Some Florida counties to end courthouse weddings to avoid same-sex ceremonies

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — More than a dozen Florida county clerks say they will stop offering courthouse wedding ceremonies, partly to avoid performing those ceremonies for same-sex couples.

Duval County Courthouse in Jacksonville, Fla.
Duval County Courthouse in Jacksonville, Fla. Wikimedia

The clerks of court in Duval, Clay and Baker counties say they will have no choice but to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples starting next week when Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage is set to expire. However, they have decided to end all courthouse weddings to avoid performing those ceremonies for same-sex couples, among other reasons.

The clerks in Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties also have made similar announcements.

Duval County Clerk of Courts Ronnie Fussell tells The Florida Times-Union that none of his staff members who currently officiate wedding ceremonies felt comfortable performing same-sex weddings.

“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.”

Update: The Tampa Bay Times reports that Holmes, Washington, Jackson, Calhoun, Liberty, Franklin, and Pasco counties will also discontinue all courthouse wedding ceremonies.

Wakulla County stopped performing ceremonies in October as a cost-cutting measure. According to Bay County’s website, it no longer offers marriage ceremonies, though it is unclear when that policy was changed.

Nadine Smith, co-founder and chief executive of the gay rights group Equality Florida, said the clerks’ decision was shocking.

“I think it would be outrageous for clerks to change the rules simply because gay couples are getting married,” she said.

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