John M. Becker

14 FL Counties Stop Weddings to Avoid Serving Gays

Filed By John M. Becker | January 05, 2015 3:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Florida, gay marriage, marriage discrimination, marriage equality, same-sex marriage

florida-satellite-view.jpgAs the clock ticks down to marriage equality in Florida, a number of county clerks -- mostly in the state's conservative panhandle -- are choosing to end courthouse weddings altogether so they don't have to hold them for gay couples. The Tampa Bay Times reports:

To comply with the judge's ruling, clerks have said they will issue marriage licenses. But in recent weeks and months, the majority of clerks in the conservative Panhandle have chosen to stop performing courthouse weddings.

Some said their offices were too cramped and they had too few employees to continue the tradition. Others blamed shrinking budgets that forced them to shift resources.

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

Nearly all of them have changed their policies since August, when U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle of Tallahassee ruled the state's gay marriage ban unconstitutional.

Several clerks, including Okaloosa County's J.D. Peacock II, have acknowledged that Hinkle's decision played a major role in their decisions.

"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 recently in a memo to his staff.

The counties that no longer offer courthouse weddings include: Bay, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Holmes, Washington, Jackson, Calhoun, Liberty, Franklin, Wakulla, Baker, Clay, Duval and Pasco. Lance deHaven-Smith, a professor of public policy at Florida State University, told the Times that the clerks are not required to perform the ceremonies, "so they can bow out."

Clerks in those counties will still be required to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, though, so couples in those counties should still be able to get married after midnight tonight, provided a qualified officiant is on hand to perform the ceremony.

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