Same-Sex Marriages Conducted In Florida After Ban Is Lifted
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Wedding bells were ringing overnight in Florida. Courts there for the first time began allowing same-sex couples to marry. In Ft. Lauderdale, Key West and other cities, gay and lesbian couples began to get married shortly after midnight, when a ban on same-sex unions was officially lifted. NPR's Greg Allen reports Florida's first gay marriages were held yesterday in Miami.
GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Over the last year, five state judges and a federal judge heard cases challenging Florida's ban on same-sex marriages. In every case, the ban was struck down. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle ruled that it violated constitutional protections to due process and equal protection but placed a stay on his order until today to allow county clerks time to get ready. But in Miami yesterday, the county clerk's office was already busy.
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ALLEN: Gay couples followed by reporters and camera crews packed into the county clerk's office after a judge in Miami-Dade County lifted a stay and allowed gay lesbian couples to receive marriage licenses. The first couple in line was Deborah Shure and her partner, Aymarah Robles.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: And when are you getting married?
DEBORAH SHURE: Tomorrow.
ALLEN: Both women are in their 60s and have been together 15 years. Robles had always expected that one day she and Shure would be able to legally marry. But still, she said, it was an emotional day.
AYMARAH ROBLES: Right. And I'm still crying, and I don't think it's going to stop today, until tomorrow and until everyone has equal rights in this country.
ALLEN: With the court rulings, Florida now becomes the 36th state to recognize same-sex unions. It's a remarkable turnabout for a state where former beauty queen Anita Bryant once led a crusade opposing gay rights. Robles said the decision meant the state of Florida was, after many years, finally recognizing their relationship and the right to love whom you choose. Sure says a legally recognized marriage also carries important practical benefits.
SHURE: You know, every time we move from state to state, we have to have many legal documents drawn up to protect ourselves. We travel a lot for business. We carry them all with us every time just to have the safety that everybody else has without them.
ALLEN: Not all counties in Florida are as welcoming as Miami. In more than a dozen counties in the northern part of the state, county clerks say they will issue licenses, but have stopped conducting any marriages at the courthouse. Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami.
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