On January 5, 2015 Florida will join a majority of states that legally allow same-sex marriages. Stemming from a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle stating that Florida’s ban on marriage equality was in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment clauses addressing due process and equal protection, the ruling makes it possible for gay and lesbian couples to obtain marriage licenses beginning on Monday, January 6, 2015.
THINGS TO KNOW: Same-sex couples will be granted marriage licenses in every Florida county under the same process as before. Florida residents pay a $93.50 application fee ($61 if both parties complete a pre-marital counseling course) and have a three-day waiting period (waiting period is waived if parties have out-of-state driver licenses).
EXCEPTIONS: County Clerks in three Florida counties (Duval, Baker, and Clay) have chosen to end the service of performing marriage ceremonies at the courthouses. The clerks argue that same-sex marriages go against the beliefs of the court personnel performing the ceremonies and so they have chosen to not marry anyone at all. That leaves traveling to a more distant county or finding an officiant who may agree to perform a simple ceremony at a convenient location for a smaller fee.
Although Vermont accepted civil unions, in 2004, Massachusetts was the first state to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and during the next several years, more states passed bills or laws that recognized a legal institution for same-sex couples. Supporters of same-sex marriage believe the term “marriage” is more meaningful and respectful than “civil union” and continue to fight for more equality with regard to marital benefits such as Social Security.
Whether by legislature, vote or judicial decision, Florida and 35 other states now recognize same-sex marriage (District of Columbia: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming).
Court rulings are pending in several states and the laws could change any day in Alaska, Georgia, Indiana, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Texas, or the states that currently ban same-sex marriage.