Yesterday, federal Judge Robert Hinkle decreed that all of Florida’s country clerks must issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples who request them from next week.
Ahead of that announcement, several of those country clerks announced that they intend to end courthouse weddings in their regions.
According to the Florida Times-Union, clerks in Duval, Clay and Baker counties have decided to end all courthouse weddings – partly because staff don’t want to perform gay marriages.
Clerks in Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties also have made similar announcements, reports AP.
Ronnie Fussell, Duval County Clerk of Courts, said that the plan was partly because of the expected ruling on same-sex marriage.
‘It was decided as a team, as an office, this would be what we do so that there wouldn’t be any discrimination … The easiest way is to not do them at all.’
‘I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. Personally it would go against my beliefs to perform a ceremony that is other than that.’
Baker Clerk Stacie Harvey said that she personally didn’t feel comfortable officiating at weddings at all, and hasn’t done so for several years, but was also sensitive to the fact that some of her staff were uncomfortable marrying gay couples.
She said the decision to end courthouse weddings was also due to the fact that they had decided to use the room for another purpose.
‘I needed the space and our county we’re in the Bible Belt … If we’re made by the law to issue a gay marriage license (we will) do that, but we are not mandated to marry couples in our courthouse.’
Although couples will not be able to get married within the county courthouses concerned, the clerks will still be obliged to issue licenses to same-sex couples.
In Duval County, 6,342 marriage licenses were issued in 2013, with 1,911 wedding ceremonies taking place in the courthouse. The numbers were significanly smaller in Clay and Baker, with just 30 couples marrying in the Baker County courthouse.
Nadine Smith of Equality Florida said that she was shocked by the news; ‘I think it would be outrageous for clerks to change the rules simply because gay couples are getting married.’
The ban on same-sex marriage is due to be lifted on 6 January.