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Religious Tolerance logo

Florida: Recognition of same-sex marriages (SSMs)

Part 22: 2015-JAN:
Same-sex couples marry on JAN-06 morning.
-- some after having waited for decades. Two
Catholic bishops deliver opposing SSM messages.

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This topic is a continuation from the previous essay.

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2015-JAN-06: Some same-sex couples marry in the early hours of the morning:

A few county clerks' offices in Florida opened briefly at 12:01 AM early on Tuesday morning to distribute marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones, who had been engaged for more than a decade, were the first to obtain their license and marry in front of the Monroe County Courthouse. They were plaintiffs in a state court lawsuit seeking the right to marry. A crowd of hundreds of onlookers watched as a police chaplain perform the ceremony.

Jones, teary-eyed, said:

"I'm glad it's finally legal."

Clerks in Palm Beach and Broward counties held mass weddings at their courthouses. Broward Clerk of Courts, Howard Forman, said:

"Never forget that love brought you here today. ... Do you take each other to be your spouse and partner for life? ... Repeat after me: With this ring, in love and truth, I marry you. ... I pronounce you legally married."

The room exploded in cheers.

Key West commissioner and former mayor Jimmy Weekley, said:

"This is a long time coming. I have been pushing this since 1999." 2

Later that morning, the sun rose in the east as normal. There were no devastating hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes or other "acts of God." People in Florida went normally about the business of their lives, except for the LGBT community. They had made a major step in their drive for acceptance. They became able to marry. For the first time, the state of Florida recognized their relationships as equivalent to those of opposite-sex couples. The state no longer viewed them as "legal strangers," as roommates.

Troy Moon wrote an amusing article on the Pensacola News Journal titled: "Gays wed in Florida! World survives!" 10 He challenged the reference to threats against religious liberty that was suggested by the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops in their statement on same-sex marriage that they posted the previous day. 8 He asked the question:

"How is allowing two dudes to marry threatening religious liberty? Please explain. Are you no longer allowed to practice your faith? Well, if the gay folks are closing down your churches and keeping you from worship, then, maybe you might have an argument. That's not happening.

And the freedom of individuals to conscientiously object? You still have that freedom. In fact - and some of you folks might be surprised by this - the new law does not require you to marry someone of the same sex. If you're straight, you are allowed to remain straight! And if you hate gays marrying, you're free to object all you want. Shout, scream, make signs. It's America. Go for it. But don't think your objection trumps justice and equality." 10

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Webmaster's comment: (bias alert)

I couldn't resist posting a comment on Troy Moon's article that answered the question that he raised. Usually, when I include text on this web site, I try to remain objective and neutral. However, I posted this comment as my own opinion with the above bias warning. Please pardon my pathetic attempt at humor. I wrote:

"You asked: 'How is allowing two dudes to marry threatening religious liberty?' I'm glad you asked. You probably define "religious liberty" in the old-fashioned way: referring to freedom of belief, speech, assembly, proselytizing, the freedom to change one's faith, etc. But you may have missed the new emerging meaning of 'religious liberty:' the right to denigrate, oppress, and discriminate against people -- particularly sexual minorities. A handful of business owners in the marriage business across the U.S. -- wedding cake bakers, wedding photographers, renters of wedding venues, etc. -- want to refuse to serve same-sex engaged couples seeking wedding goods and services. Some run afoul of city and state human rights laws.

Please don't mention this to anybody, but when the store owners refuse to 'treat others as they would like others to treat them' they are violating one of Jesus' instructions to all Christians. It is commonly called the Golden Rule. But that is a secret because it chops one of the main arguments against marriage equality off at the knees." 10

Courthouses across the state opened later in the day as more couples converged there to obtain marriage licenses. Marriage equality has probably come permanently to all of Florida, the 36th U.S. state to do so. In addition, same-sex marriage licenses have been and continue to be available in the District of Columbia and parts of Missouri.

Same-sex couples are now able to marry in all of the states along the Pacific Ocean, in all of the states along the Atlantic Ocean except for a short stretch at Georgia, and in Florida whose coastline also covers much of the Gulf of Mexico.

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2015-JAN-06: Bishop Robert N. Lynch writes positive column in Tampa Bay Times advocating patience and humility:

Bishop Lynch leads the Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg, FL.

After describing the "traditional sacramental understanding of marriage"as historically viewed by the Church, he refers to the Extraordinary Synod on the Family held in Rome, writing:

"...I also recognize that the reality of the family today, in all its complexities, presents the church with pastoral challenges as the church strives to accept people in the specific circumstances of their lives and support and encourage them in their search for God and their desire to be members of the church.

Therefore, I do not wish to lend our voice to notions which might suggest that same-sex couples are a threat incapable of sharing relationships marked by love and holiness and, thus, incapable of contributing to the edification of both the church and the wider society.

In the midst of changing societal definitions and understandings of marriage, there may no doubt be some confusion. However, with patience and humility, our church must continuously strive to discover what the spirit is saying and respond to the Synod Fathers' suggestion to discern what pastoral response faithful to church teaching and marked by respect and sensitivity might be appropriate for same-sex couples, even as God's creative designs for and the church's sacramental understanding of marriage are affirmed." 13

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2015-JAN-06: Attorney General Pam Bondi explains her opposition to marriage equality:

As she starts a new term as Attorney General for Florida, Ms. Bondi explains her dedicated and extensive past attempts to ban same-sex marriage in Florida. She now claims that she is not opposed to marriage equality. However, she has been opposed to same-sex marriage if it is available in some counties of Florida but not in others.

She should be pleased with the present status of SSM. She got her wish. Same-sex couples can obtain marriage licenses in any Florida county.

  14

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2015-JAN-06 (approx.): Archbishop Thomas Wenski threatens staff:

Archbishop Wenski leads the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Miami, FL.

He wrote a letter and distributed it to all employees of the Archdiocese. He criticized the courts for imposing a "redefinition of marriage" on the state, He called on employees to:

"... publicly represent the Catholic Church and the Archdiocese in everything you do and say.

Quoting the employee handbook, he recommends:

"... discretion when posting on social media sites [lest] online activity indicative of prohibitive behaviors" lead to reprimand or dismissal.

This may be no idle threat. Many employees of other Roman Catholic dioceses in the U.S. have been fired after legally marrying the person that they love and to whom they are committed who were of the same sex.

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This topic continues in the next essay.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above menu. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Same-sex marriages start in Florida earlier than expected; couples elated," Los Angeles Times, 2015-JAN-05, at: http://www.radionews.us/
  2. David Smiley et al., "South Florida gay couples marry in twilight ceremonies," Miami Herald, 2015-JAN-06, at: http://www.miamiherald.com/
  3. Bill Logan, "Florida Family Policy Council vows to continue fight against same-sex marriages," ABC Action News, 2015-JAN-07, at: http://www.abcactionnews.com/
  4. "Estimating the economic boost of marriage for same-sex couples in Florida," Williams Institute, 2014-AUG, at: http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/
  5. Sarah Fowler, "Breaking News: Florida Family Action Files Lawsuits Against Local Elected Officials," Florida Family Policy Council, 2014-DEC-30, at: http://flfamily.org/
  6. Fred Grimm, "Florida's gays win the right to marry, but no one loses," at: http://www.miamiherald.com/
  7. "Viewpoint: Bishops disappointed by same-sex ruling," Pensacola News Journal, 2015-JAN-06, at: http://www.pnj.com/
  8. "Statement in Response to the Redefinition of Marriage in Florida," Florida conference of Catholic Bishops, 2015-JAN-05, at: http://www.pnj.com We have edited the full document to meet copyright restrictions. The full document is available on the PNJ.com web site.
  9. Manu Raju, "Sen. Marco Rubio laments court rulings on same-sex marriage," Politico, 2015-JAN-07, at: http://www.politico.com/
  10. Troy Moon, "Gays wed in Florida! World survives!," Pensacola News Journal, 2015-JAN-06, at: http://www.pnj.com/
  11. Zack Ford, "To avoid marrying same-sex couples, 14 Florida Counties stop all courthouse weddings," Think Progress, 2015-JAN-05, at: http://thinkprogress.org/
  12. Alex Leary, "Bondi should continue fight against gay marriage in Florida," Tampa Bay Times, 2015-JAN-07, at:http://www.tampabay.com/
  13. Bishop robert N. Lynch, "Church needs patience, humility in light of same-sex marriage," Tampa Bay Times, 2015-JAN-06, at: http://www.tampabay.com/
  14. "01-06-15-Pam-Bondi-Gay-Marriage," News Service Florida, 2015-JAN-06, at: http://youtu.be/

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Site navigation: Home > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > Menu > Florida > here

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Copyright © 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2015-JAN-05
Latest update: 2015-JAN-11
Author: B.A. Robinson

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