On New Year’s Eve, the Times Union reported that, in response to the imminent legalization of gay marriage in the state of Florida, courthouse weddings are a thing of the past in Duval, Clay and Baker Counties in Northeast Florida.
The Tia Mitchell piece contained a treasure trove of horrifying details, such as this tidbit about Baker County: “Baker Clerk Harvey said the decision is as much about logistics as it is personal conviction. The room where weddings are performed each year will now be used as space for people filling out paperwork related to domestic violence injunctions.”
Domestic violence injunctions, presumably, related to heterosexual couplings.
What was clear throughout the piece: the consistently “Bible-based” positions of Duval Clerk of Courts Ronnie Fussell and Baker Clerk Stacie Harvey, both of whom cited religious concerns for this attempt to sidestep the emerging legal consensus in favor of gay marriage.
Fussell believes that “marriage is between a man and a woman” and that “the easiest way is not to do them (wedding ceremonies) at all”. Harvey, meanwhile, mentioned that “we’re in the Bible Belt” to Mitchell.
Local politicians have been silent on this issue, a reticence that reminds some of the stifled movement to expand the Human Rights Ordinance to include the LGBTQ community earlier in Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown’s term. Those with longer memories, meanwhile, might remember the city’s resistance to integrate its schools in the 1960s and 1970s.
For nearly a decade, city leaders resisted judicial calls to integrate Duval County public schools. Their hand was forced in 1971… right around the time there were Ferguson-style riots in Jacksonville’s beleaguered Eastside, after a 15-year-old black teenager was shot by a police officer. With the memories of Axe Handle Saturday fresh in the minds of many, race relations were as tense as they have been here in the post-consolidation era.
There are existential consequences for a city and a political establishment that opposes progress and the expansion of human rights. LGBTQ people in Jacksonville and their supporters await a civic leader to come forth and call for the reinstitution of courthouse weddings and the expansion of that civil right to same-sex couples. Who will be first and what is that person waiting for?
A.G. Gancarski is the Fightin’ Words columnist for Folio Weekly. He has written for the Daily Caller, the Washington Times and the American Conservative. Follow him on Twitter: @aggancarski. Column courtesy of Context Florida.