Florida's ban on same-sex marriage ended statewide at the stroke of midnight, and court clerks in some counties wasted no time, issuing marriage licenses and performing weddings for same-sex couples overnight. But they were beaten to the punch by a Miami judge who found no need to wait until the statewide ban expired. Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel presided over Florida's first legally recognized same-sex marriages yesterday afternoon, but most counties held off on official ceremonies until after midnight, when US District Judge Robert Hinkle's ruling that Florida's same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional took effect in all 67 counties.
Florida's attorney general, Pam Bondi, is still pursuing state and federal appeals seeking to uphold the ban voters approved in 2008, but her effort to block these weddings until the courts finally rule was denied by the US Supreme Court. Now that same-sex marriage is a reality in Florida, Bondi's spokeswoman says, "The judge has ruled, and we wish these couples the best." The addition of Florida's 19.9 million people means 70% of Americans now live in the 36 states where gay marriage is legal. Mass weddings were held in several locations overnight and more are planned for today, but in at least three counties, court clerks shut down courthouse chapels, saying no marriage ceremonies—gay or straight—would be allowed there. (Read more Florida stories.)