Broward County Clerk of the Courts Howard C. Forman said the words thousands of Floridian same-sex couples had been waiting a lifetime to hear.
“With this ring and in love and truth, I marry you,” Forman said during a group wedding ceremony in the early hours of Tuesday’s first day of same-sex marriage in Florida. Couples joyfully recited Forman’s words to each other at the Broward County Courthouse where same-sex marriage in the State of Florida began, officially, at the stroke of midnight.
“We’re seeing the fruition of all of our hard work,” said Robin L. Bodiford, a longtime gay rights attorney and activist from Fort Lauderdale. As she celebrated the occasion with her new wife, Sandra Picardi, Bodiford reflected on the fight for marriage equality.
“It seems like a no-brainer now that we have equal rights, but it was a long and hard fight,” Bodiford said. “We had to educate the judges and provide examples of discrimination during a time when there was no Internet.”
Friends and family members joined the newlyweds on the third floor of the courthouse in downtown Fort Lauderdale. Elected officials and judges made appearances as well, including Broward Sheriff Scott Israel, who congratulated the couples on their pursuit of happiness.
“It feels great. We are now no longer second rate citizens,” said Oren Hertz, a university professor who married his partner of seven years, Jordan Deguise, a realtor.
The dawn of same-sex marriage in Fort Lauderdale drew many different types of loving couples -- old and young, black, white, yellow and brown, men and women. The room, one onlooker commented, resembled the rainbow flag that is associated with the LGBT rights movement.
“This is a monumental event in history,” Beverly Linn said. “I was at Woodstock and this ranks the same. This is something you can always look back on and say, ‘I was there.’”
Linn married Barbara Kelly, a retired nurse who she just recently met. Kelly is legally blind, a fact that made their new romance even better.
“She fell in love with me for who I am and not what I look like,” Linn said.
Many couples waited patiently for their turn to receive a marriage license and take part in a wedding ceremony. The fee for a marriage license is $93.50 with that price being reduced to $61 after completion of a pre-marital course. The fee for a wedding ceremony is $30.
“We have a lot to handle at once, but we’re getting through it,” said Forman, who added his office was doing an accurate and thorough job of processing the license applications.
“We’ve waited a long time for this to come to Florida,” said Brian McCabe, a construction projects manager, originally from New Jersey, who married his partner Robert Chaw of 15 years.
As the music from the 1970s hit song “Love Train” played in the background, Chaw offered a tongue and cheek comment to the arrival of marriage equality.
“Now we get to be miserable just like every other married person.”
Click here to view photos from Broward’s midnight marriages.