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Florida Clerks Ready To Issue Same-Sex Marriage Licenses

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  As of Tuesday, Florida becomes the 36th state, along with the District of Columbia, to allow same-sex marriages.

In 2008, Florida voters approved a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. But a series of court rulings found the ban to be a violation of the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment guarantees of equal treatment and due process.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle's ruling on New Year's Day clarified that all 67 Florida court clerks should issue the licenses beginning Tuesday, when a stay expires on Hinkle's original decision, which invalidated the state's ban on same-sex marriage.

Escambia County Clerk Pam Childers says when the doors open Tuesday morning, the issuance of licenses for all marriages, gay and straight, will move ahead as scheduled.

Meanwhile, clerks in at least five Florida counties, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Baker, Clay and Duva, plan to end courthouse weddings for everyone so they won't have to marry same-sex couples. Okaloosa’s J.D. Peacock says for them, offering the service has always been just an option.

Peacock says discontinuing the courthouse weddings likely will result in a slight economic impact. The fee was $30, and generated about $24,000 annually. Another factor, says Peacock, is “extracting the Clerk’s office out of the debate.”

You could say that the green light to issue of marriage licenses to same-sex couples technically began on Monday in Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties. That’s when Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel lifted a stay on a previous ruling in a lawsuit brought by six gay couples, and the gay rights advocacy group Equality Florida.

Some Florida counties plan to begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses Tuesday at 12:01 a.m. In Escambia, Santa Rosa and Okaloosa, they’ll be issued during normal business hours, starting at 8:00 a-m.