In August a federal judge struck down Florida’s same sex marriage ban. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle noted in his ruling that his is now one of 19 federal courts that have struck down state laws that bar gay and lesbian couples from marrying.
Gay marriage opponents continue to raise barriers to same-sex couples desiring wedlock. The latest challenge relates to county clerks refusing to perform courthouse weddings, gay or straight. Florida counties thus far identified by the Tampa Bay Times include Pasco, Santa Rosa, Holmes, Okaloosa, Washington, Jackson, Calhoun, Liberty, Franklin, Wakulla, Baker, Clay and Duval.
Such decisions will create serious inconvenience to those preferring no-muss-no-fuss secular marriages in a small antechamber typically adjacent to the courthouse license window. I remember attending such a wedding when my brother-in-law married in Orlando. After obtaining their license, Jerry and his fiancée waited along with more than a dozen other couples to complete their nuptials.
The couples waited to exchange vows in a more than friendly sitting area. Strangers exchanged pleasantries awaiting call by the clerk who would perform the ceremony. My most vivid memory concerned a handsome Asian couple dressed to the nines. The groom wore a tuxedo and the bride a magnificent wedding dress. Most awaiting their ceremony were casually dressed. All of us gathered around this lovely couple and wished them good fortune.
Jerry and his intended were called and the couple entered the small chamber along with those of us attending his ceremony. I recall the clerk with her large ID badge wearing ordinary clothes quickly completing the exchange of vows beneath a flowery trellis. I left the courthouse uplifted by the jovial atmosphere and camaraderie by those couples present. The courthouse ceremony is an American tradition and offers a very pleasant, inexpensive and secular option to those who prefer a simpler service.
The law is the law, and I can sympathize with those whose religious beliefs run contrary to law. However, church and state are separate, and those choosing a civil service career must uphold the Constitution. To do otherwise suggests insubordination. These ceremonies are legal and the clerk of the court is charged with providing that service. When a county decides not to provide any marital service due to its fears of marrying a gay couple, such behavior could be described as “throwing the baby out with the bath water.” It is plain wrong. The uncooperative counties should suck in their gut and do what the law allows.
Why are same-sex marriages important to gay couples? Here are some reasons espoused by the Procon.org community.
- Denying some people the option to marry is discriminatory and creates a second class of citizens.
- Same-sex couples should have access to the same benefits enjoyed by heterosexual married couples.
- The concept of “traditional marriage” has changed over time, and the definition of marriage as always being between one man and one woman is historically inaccurate
- Gay marriage is protected by the US Constitution’s commitments to liberty and equality.
- Same-sex marriage is a civil right.
- Marriage is not only for procreation, otherwise infertile couples or couples not wishing to have children would be prevented from marrying.
- Gay marriages can bring financial gain to federal, state, and local governments and can help boost the economy.
- Gay couples make good parents.
- Legalizing gay marriage will not harm the institution of marriage, and same-sex marriages may even be more stable than heterosexual marriages.
- Many religious leaders and churches support gay marriage and say it is consistent with scripture.
There is much angst relating to same-sex marriages. As the old Bessie Smith song suggests, “Taint nobody’s business if I do.” – which is the case with the gay couple. Courthouse ceremonies should continue in every Florida County and not be the victim of flimsy rationale and misguided mindsets.
Dr. Marc Yacht is a semi-retired physician living in Hudson Florida. Column courtesy of Context Florida.