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Florida’s clerks ramp up for first day of same-sex marriage

By Keith Morelli
Published: January 5, 2015 Updated: January 6, 2015 at 10:14 AM
Couples line up outside the Hillsborough County Clerk of Courts office on Pierce Street to take advantage of court rulings that open the door for them to marry starting today. JIM REED/STAFF

TAMPA — Circuit court clerk offices across Florida ramped up their record-keeping routine Monday expecting gay couples to take immediate advantage of court rulings that open the door for them to marry starting today.

Crowds or not, the Tampa area offices are ready to crank out extra marriage licenses and, in most cases, to conduct civil ceremonies.

If there is a big crowd in Tampa, Hillsborough County Clerk of the Circuit Court Pat Frank has arranged for a group wedding ceremony at noon in nearby Joe Chillura Courthouse Square Park downtown. Otherwise, she’ll just do the ceremony in Room 140 at the courthouse on Pierce Street.

A circuit judge in Miami on Monday lifted the ban there, so same-sex couples in Miami-Dade County were able to tie the marriage knot Monday. But across the state, the same-sex marriage ban ended at midnight and some clerks opened their marriage license counters at 12:01 a.m. today.

Not in the Tampa Bay area, though. Clerks will open their doors at the normal time, and in Tampa, that’s 8 a.m.

Hillsborough clerk’s officials say marriage licenses are issued on a first-come, first-served basis. Advance appointments aren’t offered.

Normally, if applicants have not taken a four-hour premarital counseling course, there is a three-day waiting period before marriages can be performed. But the Hillsborough clerk’s office is waiving that this week so same-sex couples can marry immediately after obtaining the license.

The office doesn’t plan on reassigning deputy clerks and will process licenses as normal with its staff of 14 people.

To make the event more festive, cookies will be served.

In Pasco County, same-sex marriage licenses were expected to be available at the clerk’s office in Dade City and New Port Richey beginning at 8:30 a.m. today. Office hours are 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Citing work overload and the reluctance of some staff members to perform same-sex weddings, Pasco County Clerk of the Circuit Court Paula O’Neil said the three-day waiting period also will be waived — but only for the first day. A judge there has agreed to marry couples, she said, and some notaries will be on hand to officiate as well.

Pinellas County Clerk of the Circuit Court Ken Burke said his office is ready for whatever happens.

“We have four offices that issue marriage licenses,” Burke said Monday. “Pinellas County is spread out. We’re putting extra staff in every one of our four locations. We’re reassigning people and basically tripling the staff at those locations.”

He said two courtrooms are available for wedding ceremonies.

“We’ve geared up nicely for this thing,” Burke said.

Opening his offices at midnight was not an option.

“There’s no reason,” he said. “It would be a great expense to the county to open up at midnight.”

Clerks in Osceola, Broward and Palm Beach counties had planned to open early today, according to their websites.

In Osceola, 30 marriage licenses were to be issued at 12:01 a.m. today for qualified same-sex couples who applied online.

The clerk in Broward County began issuing marriage licenses at 12:01 a.m. today. The office was to have been open from midnight until 4 a.m., with a group wedding ceremony scheduled for 3 a.m., according to the Broward clerk’s website. Daytime hours of the office were extended from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. indefinitely.

In Palm Beach County, the clerk’s office began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples at 10:30 p.m. Monday. The licenses were to take effect at midnight when the clerk was expected to be available to perform a group ceremony.

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Tips on getting married today

♦ Couples applying for a marriage license must be 18 or older, present a government-issued identification card, know their Social Security numbers (non-citizens can give a passport number), and, if married before, know the month, date and year when the last marriage ended.

♦ The cost for the marriage license is $93.50. The three-day waiting period will be waived from Tuesday through Friday for same-sex couples only.

♦ Couples can be married at any of the clerk’s offices, including the main office in Tampa and branch offices in Plant City, Brandon and Ruskin, for an additional cost of $30.

♦ Clerk Pat Frank will perform a group marriage ceremony at noon Tuesday — outdoors if the crowd size warrants it. Check at the Official Records Department, Room 140, 419 Pierce St. Those interested must get a license no later than 11:45 a.m.

Source: Hillsborough County Clerk of the Circuit Court