Unless you have been living under a rock, you have heard that in accordance with a recent ruling by a federal judge, Clerk of Courts in Florida began issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples on January 6, 2015. After much legal wrangling, Florida has become the 35th state to legalize and recognize same sex marriages.
I had scheduled a final hearing in a divorce case at the Orange County Courthouse the morning of January 6th. I decided to show up early to witness history being made. A long line of same sex couples formed outside the Clerk’s office that morning with the expectation of receiving a marriage license. Some were dressed in wedding finery. All displayed emotion as they laughed and cried and nervously waited for the doors of the Clerk’s office to open for business. It was obvious that some couples feared being informed by a courthouse official that they would not actually be receiving the hoped for marriage licenses. Fortunately there were no surprises, nor last minute court rulings to disrupt their special day. The Clerk’s office opened to much fanfare, with several media outlets in attendance to record the momentous occasion. Clerk of Court, Tiffany Moore Russell personally issued the first couple of marriage licenses. Most of the couples that obtained marriage licenses that morning opted to participate in the mass ceremony to be performed by Mayor Buddy Dyer at City Hall later that morning. However, I was privileged to be able to witness the very first same sex marriage ceremony performed in Orange County. The ceremony was officiated in the Courthouse wedding chapel by Orange County Bar Association President and Clerk of Courts’ attorney, Nick Shannin. Nick was honored to be able to perform the ceremony and I was so thrilled to experience it.
Fast forward to February when I was hired on my first same sex divorce. Yes, the marriage had actually lasted more than one month. My client was actually married in New York in 2013. While it is certainly unfortunate that the marriage did not work out, it was a relief for my client and his spouse to finally be able to enjoy the same access to the court system in order to terminate their marriage as a heterosexual couple would have had. My client’s case was the first same sex divorce to be legally processed for filing by the Clerk in Orange County and the second one to be finalized in Orange County. While I dispensed with the labels of “Husband” and “Wife” in my court filings in this case, ultimately the issues to be resolved were the same as would be addressed in any other divorce case. It won’t be long before same sex divorce becomes just as commonplace. Hopefully, as all the angst and controversy over this issue fades into the background over time, everyone will wonder what all the fuss was about to begin with.