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Florida: Recognition of same-sex marriages (SSMs)

Part 24: 2015-JAN to OCT:
The Brenner v. Scott ruling became effective.
Thousands of marriage licenses issued in FL.
U.S. Supreme Court legalizes SSM across the U.S.
Redundant state law filed to protect clergy
who want to continue marriage discrimination.

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This topic is a continuation from the previous essay

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2015-JAN-07: The impact of the Brenner v. Scott decision in Florida:

As of JAN-06, District Judge Hinkle's ruling became fully effective. Engaged same-sex couples throughout Florida were able to routinely apply for a marriage license in any Florida county. They could then be subsequently married by a judge in some courthouses or by a member of the clergy in that minority of churches, synagogues, etc. which are willing to marry same-sex couples. After their marriages are registered, each couples gained access to hundreds of state benefits and protections for themselves and their children. They also gained access to all 1,138 federal benefits and protections on a par with opposite-sex couples. Also, same-sex couples who are residents of Florida, and who had their marriages legally solemnized elsewhere, became recognized as married in Florida for the first time. 1,4

Most of the couples were composed of two lesbians or two gays. Some included one or two bisexuals.

As of late JAN-07, the Associated Press found that 1,377 same-sex couples had obtained marriage licenses throughout Florida over two days.

One couple was Ken Wright, 68, and Jim Browne, 71 in Orlando. They had been together for four decades, and were married right away. Wright said:

"You would never say the word ‘gay’ when we were growing up. You had to whisper it." 1

This Brenner v. Scott case was still before a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Circuit of Appeals, where it was named Brenner v. Armstrong.

Nine days later, on 2015-JAN-16, the U.S. Supreme Court accepted an unrelated consolidated gay marriage case that the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled upon. This case included one lawsuit each from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, & Tennessee. The consolidated case is called Obergefell v. Hodges.

The 11th Circuit placed further consideration of Brenner on hold, pending the High Court's decision which was expected during late 2015-June or early July.

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2015-JAN-11: Church offers free marriage ceremonies to same-sex couples:

All Faiths Unitarian Church in Fort Myers, FL provided free walk-in marriage ceremonies for same sex couples today. Minister Margaret Beard had heard of other churches in the U.S. providing this service at no cost, and felt an obligation to do so as well. She said:

"We believe in the inherent worth and dignity of all people, no exceptions. Part of that is being able to get married in a beautiful church like ours." 2

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2015-JUN-26: The U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriages across most of the United States:

The High Court settled the same-sex marriage conflict, at least for now. The Justices issued their ruling in the case Obergefell v. Hodges. It requires all states, the District of Columbia, and four out of five U.S. Territories to allow qualified same-sex couples to marry. Such couples must meet the state's requirements for eligibility to marry. This typically includes being above a specified minimum age, and not too closely related genetically.

The U.S. Supreme Court followed the lead of many dozens of lower state and federal courts since mid-2013 by ruling the remaining states' and territories' bans on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional. They based their ruling on the now familiar grounds that the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution which requires the federal, state, district, most territorial and local governments to treat people equally. Thus, if qualified opposite-sex couples could marry, then same-sex couples must have the same right. Marriage equality had come to the United States.

Most in the LGBT community, civil libertarians, and religious & social liberals & moderates were pleased. Most religious and social conservatives were displeased. Some of the latter felt that the High Court's decision to redefine marriage to allow same-sex couples to marry was "judicial tyranny," and an unconstitutional ruling.

However, religious and social conservatives are not without hope that marriage inequality will return in the future. If a Republican president were to be elected in 2016 or later, she or he might attempt to pack the U.S. Supreme Court with conservative Justices who would then be able to reverse Obergefell. The High Court's decision in Obergefell was 5 to 4. If a single liberal Justice were to retire, and if they were replaced by a conservative, strict constructionist Justice, a future case might terminate all existing same-sex marriages, and prohibit such couples from marrying in the future. All 50 states, the District of Columbia, and all five territories would then recognize same-sex couples as legal strangers -- as mere roommates without the protections of marriage for themselves and their children. Another scenario is that individual states, territories and the District of Columbia might be given the freedom to ban gay marriages once more.

Nothing is ever permanently fixed in law.

The one part of the United States that still prohibits gay marriages is the territory of American Samoa. Its residents do not receive all of the rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. The Territorial Government has been considering whether to follow the ruling of the High Court. As of mid 2015-OCT, no decision has been made.

The Supreme Court based its ruling on the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It requires the federal, state, district, local, and most territorial governments to treat people -- and thus couples -- equally. This is the same argument used by the same court in 1967 in the analogous case Loving v. Virginia which redefined marriage to include by qualified couples of different races.

Within three months of the High Court's Obergefell ruling, qualified same-sex couples were routinely obtaining marriage licenses from their local county clerk in about 99.7% of counties or county equivalents across the United States. As of mid-October, exceptions were:

  • Rowan County, KY where Kim Davis, the County Clerk, is refusing to authorize such licenses. However, her Deputy Clerks are issuing licenses.

  • Whitley County, KY, where Clerk Kay Schwartz has also decided to refuse to issue licenses to same-sex couples.

  • Casey County, KY, where Clerk Casey Davis decided to refuse to issue licenses to any couples.

  • About seven counties in Alabama where clerks are also refusing to issue licenses to same-sex couples.

In most or all of these counties, couples can travel to an adjacent county to obtain licenses. This situation may not be resolved until the maverick clerks find themselves defendants in lawsuits filed by same-sex couples which would probably result in stiff fines.

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2015-OCT-08: Redundant bill proposed in the Florida Legislature:

The bill, HB 43, would guarantee that clergy in Florida would be able to refuse to marry any couples with marriage licenses, if their marriage would violate the officiant's religious beliefs or prejudices. This is a redundant bill because the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution already guarantees freedom of religious institutions to refuse to marry couples for any reason. For centuries, clergy have been refusing to marry couples who are of the "wrong" religion, or of different religions, or of the "wrong" denomination in the "right" religion, or are regarded as too immature by the clergy, are of the "wrong" skin color, or are interracial, or where one part is a NOTA (not affiliated with any religion), etc. To our knowledge, since the country was established, no member of the clergy has ever been charged with any crime because of their refusal to marry a couple.

Rep. Scott Plakon (R), a co-sponsor of the bill, said:

"We think it’s a good idea to put this in law now because it’s difficult to predict where this is all going. Some have said, 'Well, it’s unnecessary.' I would hope that that’s so, quite frankly, so there’s no harm in putting in an extra layer of protection." 3

HB 43 has been approved by the House Civil Justice Committee, which is an interesting committee name considering that this bill would perpetuate what most people in Florida consider to be an injustice. It must be passed by another committee before being presented to the full House for a vote. A companion Senate bill, SB-110 has not yet been considered by a Senate Committee.

Billy Hallowell, writing for The Blaze, said:

"Supporters see the bill as a positive move that helps preserve religious liberty,* while critics believe that it improperly encourages fear mongering by addressing a problem that does not currently exist."

Pastor Gerald Bustin, of the Open Door Community Church of Summerfield, FL, said:

"We will die before we will give up our religious freedoms* in the United States to any group or any organization regardless of who they are, whether they’re government or whether they’re an LGBT organization or whoever because we will stand for God and what we believe God has told us to stand for." 3

Bustin's comment shows a subtle but important shift from many similar previous comments by religious conservatives. Rather than ending his statement with:

"... God has told us to stand for," or

"... the Bible has told us to stand for,"

he ended it with:

"what we believe God has told us to stand for." 3

That is, he recognizes that the basis of their refusal to marry a same-sex couple is based on their interpretation of the Bible passages dealing with same-gender sexual behavior. This holds open the possibility that conservatives' interpretation could be in error as many religious liberals, religious moderates, and secularists believe.

* Webmaster's note:

The "religious liberty" referred to in the article is the "religious liberty to discriminate" against others in violation of the Golden Rule. Two Gospels in the Bible record that following the Golden Rule was required by Jesus of all Christians.

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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. Mike Schneider, "Almost 1,400 same-sex marriage licenses issued in Florida’s top 28 counties," LGBTQ Nation, 2015-JAN-07, at: http://www.lgbtqnation.com/
  2. Michael Colaianni, "Church holds free walk-in same-sex marriage ceremonies," 2015-JAN-11, WBBH-TV, at: http://www.nbc-2.com/
  3. Billy Hallowell, "Clergy Clash Over Proposed Florida Bill That Would Allow Pastors and Churches to Refuse to Perform Gay Marriages," The Blaze, 2015-OCT-08, at: http://www.theblaze.com/
  4. David Smiley et al., "South Florida gay couples marry in twilight ceremonies," Miami Herald, 2015-JAN-06, at: http://www.miamiherald.com/


  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. Alexandra Jaffe, "Marco Rubio: 'We're going to abide' by gay marriage rulings," CNN, 2015-JAN-08, at: http://www.cnn.com/
  15. Michael Colaianni, "Church holds free walk-in same-sex marriage ceremonies," 2015-JAN-11, WBBH-TV, at: http://www.nbc-2.com/
  16. Billy Hallowell, "Clergy Clash Over Proposed Florida Bill That Would Allow Pastors and Churches to Refuse to Perform Gay Marriages," The Blaze, 2015-OCT-08, at: http://www.theblaze.com/
  17. Mike Schneider, "Almost 1,400 same-sex marriage licenses issued in Florida’s top 28 counties," LGBTQ Nation, 2015-JAN-07, at: http://www.lgbtqnation.com/

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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-OCT-12
Author: B.A. Robinson

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