Wedded to prejudice in 3 Florida counties

Wedded to prejudice in 3 Florida counties

Rather than allow gay marriages to be performed in their courthouses, vindictive officials in three Florida counties have decided to ban ALL weddings on their premises.

The decision by the Clerks of Court in the Duval, Clay and Baker counties  to end the long-standing tradition of courthouse wedding ceremonies is due, at least in part, to the continued debate over same-sex marriage in Florida “against the backdrop of conservative Christianity”, according to this report.

US District Judge Robert Hinkle could rule any day to make gay marriage legal across the state.

If same-sex marriage is allowed, Duval Clerk of Courts Ronnie Fussell, Clay Clerk Tara Green and Baker Clerk Stacie Harvey (pictured from left, above) 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.

The clerks said multiple factors contributed to the decision to end courthouse weddings, with gay marriage being just one of them. And they now 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. The easiest way is to not do them at all.

Fussell, a former Jacksonville City Council president, attends a Southern Baptist church and said he has considered how to handle the conflict between his personal views and professional duties that gay marriage created. He said he believes lesbians and gays should be defended and protected, but not allowed to marry.

I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. Personally it would go against my beliefs to perform a ceremony that is other than that.

Baker Clerk Harvey said the decision is as much about logistics as it is personal conviction. The room where weddings are performed each year will now be used as space for people filling out paperwork related to domestic violence injunctions.

I needed the space and … we’re in the Bible Belt … If we’re made by the law to issue a gay marriage license (we will) do that, but we are not mandated to marry couples in our courthouse.

Harvey said there are members of her staff who would be uncomfortable performing same-sex weddings and she did not want to force them. She said she doesn’t feel comfortable performing weddings at all, gay or straight, and hasn’t officiated a ceremony in years.

Justin Horan, general counsel for the Clay County clerk of courts, said the debate over gay marriage accelerated discussions on whether to end courthouse weddings.

Really it just expedited our evaluation on whether to continue to offer marriage ceremonies. We had been talking about it for several months now.

Residents of Baker, Clay and Duval counties who want to avoid usual wedding expenses will now have to find a minister or notary to perform the ceremony after they pick up their marriage license, but a place other than the courthouse.

Equality Florida co-founder and chief executive Nadine Smith was shocked by the news.

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

Smith, an advocate for gay and lesbian rights, predicted the policy change would backfire and be characterised as spiteful and mean.

There were 1,911 wedding ceremonies performed at the Duval County Courthouse in 2013, compared to 6,342 marriage licenses issued. About 330 Clay County couples are married at its courthouse each year, and Baker averages about 30.

Clerks of courts in Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties in the Panhandle also made similar announcements that they were ending courthouse ceremonies.

Nassau County Clerk of Courts John Crawford has not responded to a request about any changes there.

The clerks of courts in St Johns and Putnam counties said they will continue to offer courthouse weddings, even if gay marriage becomes legal.

Putnam County Clerk of Courts Tim Smith said he will allow individual members of his staff who feel uncomfortable with gay marriage to decline to perform those ceremonies, but no one has said they will take him up on the offer.

Hat tip: Trevor Blake

15 responses to “Wedded to prejudice in 3 Florida counties”

  1. Newspaniard says:

    I’m not sure gay people who want to get married would choose a location where the person performing the ceremony hated them. I’m sure that there are many without faith who would be happy to join the couple in matrimony without the god bit.

  2. Broga says:

    Why bother getting married at all. I suppose there are legal considerations about property and children. I think about 50% of people don’t get married now.

    Some of the marriages I have attended have let to family rows and an ill feeling which festered for decades. One aunt has never forgiven her niece for not placing her at the “Top Table.” She is still rabitting on about that, and recounting the specific details, 20 years later.

  3. L.Long says:

    I wish the gov’mint removed all benefits for marriage, and just issued civil contracts for legal protections. After all the only reason the gov’mint got involved with marriage way back in the day was to protect kids and women from religious ahole men. Removing all tax breaks also makes quiverful a problem but who cares. And if religious dims did not want civil legal protections than so be it, women should really enjoy their protections under the rules put in place by their psychotic imaginary friend.
    As far as things like getting to see partner in hospital is not a legal problem but a bigotry problem, when has any hospital asked a hetero partner for proof of marriage???? NEVER!! Cuz we all know that heteros never lie and homos always lie, YA!! Right!!! Its just more overt bigotry only!!!
    Looking at the photos reminds me how monsters are all shown ugly, good people are always shown pretty, but the truth always seems to be the opposite???

  4. Peterat says:

    If you hold a position within the public service you do not have the luxury of having an opinion that would negatively impact upon the manner in which you perform your job and provide that service! If your opinions are held that strongly, search for another job. Could a police officer refuse to provide a service to someone he felt wasn’t quite “deserv ing” of it, a firefighter, a nurse, a teacher?? No, I thought not. No difference here and their convenient excuses not to do their job are just that.

  5. AgentCormac says:

    Spiteful is indeed the right word and no matter how these clerks try to insinuate otherwise, the vindictive motive behind their decision is there for all to see. If they are unwilling to represent the whole of their communities they should not be allowed to hold office.

  6. dennis says:

    I have a real problem with this story, so I will only say a clerk or official cannot decide what laws to perform can constitute a break down of government.
    religion has no place at my county office state office or federal office.

  7. Trevor Blake says:

    These clerks should be allowed to honor biblical marriages. Such as found in Matthew 25:1 (one man and ten women), or in the righteous examples of Lot and Noah (daughter rape). Let us honor their beliefs without judgement. Because polygamy and incestuous rape are sacred to Christians and we should respect that.

  8. Broga says:

    @Trever Blake: Nice one, Trevor. I liked your comment.

  9. Vanity Unfair says:

    It looks like a straightforward First Amendment violation to me. It’s not enough to claim that the restriction applies to everybody when that restriction has been applied to further a religious purpose. It is the religious purpose that makes it illegal, not the universal application that makes it legal.

  10. Vanity Unfair says:

    It seems strange that a judge should have the power to solemnize marriages but that, I suppose, is just one of the differences in outlook that has arisen. Judges can end marriages but not initiate them.Perhaps it’s something to do with a frontier culture.
    It’s also odd that a Clerk of the Court should wield such power over a judge’s work. They would not get away with that in any of the UK legal systems.

  11. Bubblecar says:

    It’s just a frank admission: “We refuse to do an important part of our job, so to make it fair to everyone, we also refuse to do any of it. But we still expect to get paid.”

  12. Marky Mark says:

    Broga says:
    “Why bother getting married at all. I suppose there are legal considerations about property and children. I think about 50% of people don’t get married now.”
    …I agree

    “Some of the marriages I have attended have let to family rows and an ill feeling which festered for decades.”
    …LOL, I agree twice!

    Lets face it, we humans are just a nasty self-indulgent species at times. Problem with religious folks is they claim their imaginary friend in the sky tells them it is alright to be this way…As I know that when I act that way it is something I need to correct.

  13. barriejohn says:

    Here’s an in-depth look at the dilemma for the religious, highlighted by the NSS today, which is well worth rreading:

  14. JohnMWhite says:

    So do dentists who don’t believe in fairies get away with never performing tooth extractions?

  15. Cali Ron says:

    What would your personal beliefs have to do with anything? They are performing a ceremony, they are not a part of the marriage. Blatant discrimination! Doesn’t matter what they belief, it’s there job to perform weddings. This argument is gaining momentum in the States and it’s illogical BS. Your personal beliefs only apply to what you do personally, not tasks performed as part of your job for money. If they feel so strongly they should quit the job on ideological grounds and move on. It’s a weak excuse to deny people their legal rights.