According to the 2012 U.S. Census, Fort Lauderdale has the highest concentration of gay couples in the country (within cities over 65,000 population). To the surprise of many, South Florida has “out-Gayed” two much larger U.S. Cities – Seattle and San Francisco. Those cities came in second and third for Gay-couple population.
Despite the Gay-friendly atmosphere and attitude the LGBT community is accustomed to in South Florida, Seattle and San Francisco are different from the sunshine state, because same-sex couples can marry legally in Washington State and California.
Florida's voting history reflects the on-going battle against LGBT discrimination. Floridians have to consider wedding ceremonies in one of the 17 states that currently recognize the union between same-sex couples.
For couples planning a wedding ceremony out-of-state, there are many factors to consider. In our guide below we highlight the four most important considerations when choosing a state for that special day. Where do we need to go? How much will cost to obtain a marriage license? Are we bringing our best friends as witnesses? How long will we have to wait after applying for a license, before we can hold our ceremony?
Where to Go and What to Know
Location: Marriage licenses are available at the county level.
Cost: Average cost $64
Waiting Period: Three days are needed after getting a license to hold a ceremony.
Witness Requirement: Two persons are requiredto witness the exchange of vows.
Location: County clerk's office or recorder-registrar.
Waiting Period: None
Witness Requirement: At least one person must witness the exchange of vows; there is no age requirement.
Location: County clerk's office.
Cost: Averages $35.
Waiting Period: There is a three-day waiting period prior to the ceremony.
Witness Requirement: You will need two witnesses, at least 16 years old, at the ceremony.
Location: County clerk's Office.
Cost: $115. There is a $75 discount for couples who provide proof of taking a “premarital education course.” For more information visit (OurWeddingCeremony.org).
Waiting Period: Five days are needed after getting a license to hold a ceremony.
Location: Circuit courthouse.
Cost: Between $35 and $60.
Waiting Period: There is a two-day waiting period.
Witness Requirement: Maryland does not require a wittness .
Location: Clerk of the Peace office at the county level.
Cost: Non-residents $100; residents $50. Cash only.
Waiting Period: 96 hours.
Witness Requirement: Two witnesses must be present during the ceremony.
District of Columbia
Location: Go to theD.C. Superior Court Marriage Bureau in the courthouse on Indiana Avenue.
Cost: $35 for the license and $10 for the marriage certificate.
Waiting Period: Three days. Officials suggest waiting five days at it will take five days to process the marriage certificate.
Witness Requirement: No witnesses required.
Location: County clerk’s office.
Cost: $35 to $50.
Waiting Period: It is24 hours before the wedding ceremony.
Witness Requirement: New York requires a witness, who must be at least 18.
Location: County clerk’s office
Cost: $35 to $50.
Waiting Period: It may take the municipal clerk a day to prepare the license, but there is no official waiting period.
Special Note: The state has no residency requirement, but out-of-state couples must hold the wedding ceremony in the town where they obtain their marriage license.
Witness Requirement: Connecticut doesn’t require a witness.
Location: County clerk’s office, in county where you will marry.
Special Note: A justice of the peace cannot officiate at weddings.
Waiting Period: No waiting period
Witness Requirement: Couples need two witnesses at the ceremony.
Location: Couples need to complete a Notice of Intention of Marriage at a town hall and swear an oath.
Cost: Varies county to county from $4 to $60.
Waiting Period: Three-day waiting period.
Witness Requirement: Witnesses are not required.
Location: City clerk’s office.
Waiting Period: No waiting period.
Witness Requirement: New Hampshire does not have a witness requirement.
Special Note: Although New Hampshire does not have a residency requirement, state statue may complicate the issue. The statue states that “No marriage will be contracted in the state by party who intends to reside in another jurisdiction.”
Location: Town hall. The marriage can solemnized in any municipality in the state.
Waiting Period: No waiting period
Witness Requirement: Mainerequiresthat two witnesses be present and sign the marriage license.
Location: Town halls.
Waiting Period: No waiting period.
Witness Requirement: They don’t require witnesses.
Know the Law
Gay couples should always keep a paper trail
If you are currently in a domestic partnership or civil union, the recognition of that union will not dissolve under new law. The more important question to consider is the issue of legality.
Federal law provides 1,100 protections for couples, which take effect they get married. Some of these protections include the sharing of health insurance through employers, tax benefits, the ability to make critical decisions in time of poor health or unforeseen circumstance, immigration, property rights, and of course, the choice to divorce.
Last year the Supreme Court ruled in Windsor vs. United States, that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, the Federal law that allows states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages, which are granted under the laws of other states, unconstitutional.
“We have enormous momentum in our campaign to win the freedom to marry — but more left to do. We've won the freedom to marry in 19 states and DC (up from 0 a decade ago); have grown a nationwide majority for marriage (59 percent, up from 27 percent in 1996) with support in every region of the country, including the South; and by striking down the core of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, assured that the federal government will respect married couples as married for federal purposes even in states that still discriminate,” Founder and CEO of the Freedom to Marriage Campaign, Evan Wolfson said.
Despite the tremendous strides on the front against marriage discrimination on a federal level, couples are still faced with state-level opposition. In the Florida Declaration of rights Article 1, marriage is defined: In as much as marriage is the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife, no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized.
“Our work is not done until we have won marriage nationwide. As we aim toward a return to the Supreme Court to bring the country to national resolution, we must continue to create the climate of support and progress that will convey to the next wave of decision-makers, including the justices, that all of America is ready for the freedom to marry,” Wolfson said.
Despite Florida not recognizing the union of a same-sex couple, there are still practical measures a couple can take in order to protect the validity of there marriage being challenge.
Board Certified Marital and Family Lawyer Luis Insignares suggest that couples immediately make a copy of the marriage license and have it easily available in case the status of the marriage is challenged. If couples are not averse to sharing the same last name, a name change can serve as validity of the marriage. He also suggests that it is essential to keep everything in writing and keep a paper trail. If further action is ever required you will be able to prove exactly what happened, when, where and whom was dealt with it.
“Lastly, stay informed! A couple should regularly check the status of marriage equality in the state in which they reside, so that if a court decision comes down, they can obtain a copy of it and be able to assert their rights as soon as they have been recognized,” Insignares said. “There are several such cases pending in Florida right now, at least two of which appear to be up on appeal. In South Florida, the one to watch for is called Pareto vs. Ruvin. Regular web searches to keep up to date will help ensure that your rights get recognized.”
To contact the Law offices of Luis E Insignares please visit (www.http://www.lei-law.com)
Bill Wynn and Vito Skidmore
“We knew at Starbucks”
On Sunday, August 17, 2008, we both went to a pool party in Wilton Manors, Florida. There were over one hundred gay men and women swimming, sunning and eating at the event. That night, determined to step back into the dating pool, Bill signed up for an on-line dating service. Within a very short time, Bill received a message, “Is this the sweetest man in Fort Lauderdale?” He replied, “Vito, is that you?” We had both been at the pool party, but neither knew the other was looking to date. We had known each other through friends and had seen one another around town.
After connecting on the phone, we set a dinner date for the next Saturday. A day or two later, Vito called to say he was nervous about our dinner date and asked if we could meet for coffee on Thursday. We did, and the rest is history. Our saying now is, “We knew at Starbucks!”
Our relationship has been that easy ever since. When it’s right, it’s right. We had both dated plenty, and were happy to have found our own princes. We both knew early on that this was for life. By Christmas, we were talking of marriage. At that time, same-sex marriage was barely legal in the U.S. On Sept. 23 2013, when the IRS announced that all legal same-sex marriages would be recognized for federal tax purposes, providing certainty, benefits and protections under federal law, we knew we needed to move forward.
Also, after watching the documentary “8: The Mormon Proposition” it inspired us to “make it legal.” People all around the country were fighting so hard for our rights. It was time for us to stand up and be counted. Our joke is, “It was the Mormons that made us marry!”
I spoke to my accountant and she said it was a no-brainer. The tax benefits are significant and the protections are great.
After researching, we decided to marry in New York City. Most states, which allow same-sex marriage, have up to a three-day waiting period. New York has a twenty-four hour waiting period. You collect the license at the courthouse, wait one day, have the ceremony, and then, you are married. If you pre-register your marriage license on-line, you save time and trouble at the courthouse.
One of the most challenging aspects was finding a wedding officiate to marry us. People charge a lot of money for the service. Plus, calls would go unreturned. We ended up posting on Facebook, asking if anyone knew of licensed wedding officiates in New York City. That’s how we found Robert Fertita. We spoke via Skype for a month before the ceremony. He wanted to know us before he married us. It made it so special. Through this process, we made a good friend.
We decided to have a small ceremony in Central Park. For parties of less than 20 people, you do not need a permit. We flew up on April 25, 2014, landed at LaGuardia at 10 a.m., dropped our bags off at the hotel, taxied to the courthouse and had our license by 1 p.m. We spent the rest of the day checking out the wedding location and restaurant for the dinner after the ceremony. Oh, and we got spray tans, of course!
The act of getting married was the greatest surprise. We had chosen the outfits, bought the rings, and knew the vows. But, there was something about declaring your love and intentions before God and Central Park that makes it real. We were able to say out loud, in a state where it is recognized, our vows. We had perhaps twelve friends and family in the park with us. But, as soon as we started the ceremony, a crowd gathered. By the time Robert said, “I now pronounce…” close to one hundred people cheered.
Our mothers could not be there. They both wrote beautiful letters expressing their love and support. These letters were read as part of the ceremony. There were tears.
It gives us great hope seeing all of the state courts ending the bans on same-sex marriage. And we look forward to the day when, in regards to New York City, if you are married there, you’re married everywhere!
Jay Kubesch & Fermin Rojas
“Getting married was emotionally empowering for me”
We made the decision to me married in the spring of 2011. We had been together for 2 years and felt that we really wanted to pursue the legal status of marriage to cement our commitment. We were married in Massachusetts on September 17, 2011. We chose that state because we live and work there half the year.
Even before being married, we had already consulted with Florida attorneys to enact living wills and power of attorney documents naming each other. Subsequent to the marriage, we also rewrote our wills to ensure our wishes would be carried out since Florida does not recognize our Massachusetts marriage.
Gay Floridians should be aware of the option of filing federal tax returns jointly as married couple (albeit married in another state). This year we discussed this option with our tax advisor and realized that we would enjoy a great benefit of lessened federal tax burden. Our tax preparer will also file amendments for the two prior years that we should have been filing jointly and recover those overpayments for us as well!
In addition to the tax benefits, inheritance planning, etc. the legality of getting married was emotionally empowering for me. One of the most rewarding parts of the process was applying for the marriage license. We went to City Hall in Provincetown completed the form and handed it back to the clerk. She said, "congratulations" we'll have it ready for you in a couple of days. Having grown-up in a society where being gay was not protected under the law, it was a pleasant shock of sorts to hear a government agency say "congratulations.”
Once we had the license in hand, it was a simple matter of having the ceremony performed by a registered minister or justice of the peace. This person signs the license certifying that the couple did marry. We chose a friend who was certified to perform the task and had a simple ceremony on the beach near our home accompanied by about 20 friends, then everyone was invited to our home for a brunch.
I can tell you that the happiest, and one of the most life changing experiences in my life, was the when I woke up the next morning after the wedding. I looked over at Jay and realized that this was not just a chosen "partner" - this was now my husband. For the first time in my life I felt completely equal as a citizen. We had not only validated our relationship, but had legally, by definition, created a family.
It made me feel like our relationship by marriage had the same status as the rest our heterosexual family members. And, I know that it made a difference for our straight family members as well. We are snowbirds, splitting our time between Massachusetts and Florida. And honestly, when we are in Florida I don't feel the same sense of legal equality — but at least I know we are federally protected. I believe it's only a matter of time until Florida changes its gay marriage laws. But until that happens, I will not view Florida as a state with the same legal relevance as Massachusetts.