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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 2, 2014 - Volume 43 Issue 01
Fort Lauderdale plans mass wedding for Gay couples - Bigots sue to stop Florida marriages but judge gives go ahead
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Fort Lauderdale plans mass wedding for Gay couples - Bigots sue to stop Florida marriages but judge gives go ahead

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau will invite at least 100 Gay and Lesbian couples to marry on their beach sometime this winter. The exact date for the event has not been announced.

On December 19 the U.S. Supreme Court turned down Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi's request to stay a federal court ruling that same-sex marriages may begin on January 6.

In a statement to the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel newspaper, the president of the tourism bureau said the number 100 will honor Broward County, Florida's centennial celebration.

'We're going to pull out all the stops, just like a proud father does when their child marries,' Nicki Grossman said.

Gay tourists are 'a very loyal and important part of our destination,' she added.

The wedding extravaganza is just the first of many gay-marriage activities planned in Broward, a pioneer in promoting Gay tourism. In 2013, more than 1.3 million LGBT travelers visited Broward and spent about $1.5 billion, accounting for about 10% of tourism in the county, Grossman said.

That number includes only those who came on LGBT tours, attended Gay events, responded to Gay ads, or in some way self-identified as LGBT.

'We believe that there are considerably more LGBT travelers than that' in Broward, Grossman said.

Bigots sue
Meanwhile, the anti-Gay Florida Family Action filed two lawsuits seeking to prevent Florida officials from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The group is represented by the Orlando-based Liberty Counsel, which offers legal representation to right-wing Christians.

The officials named in the lawsuits are Osceola County Clerk of Court Armando Ramirez, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, and Circuit Judge Robert LeBlanc. Ramirez said he would issue licenses to any same-sex couple that asked for one. Dyer and LeBlanc promised to officiate at same-sex weddings on January 6.

Florida Family action argues the lifting of the ban on same-sex marriage applies to only Washington County in the Panhandle, where the legal challenge to the state's same-sex marriage ban originated. Ramirez has promised to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

'All three of these officials have shown great contempt and disrespect for the rule of law and are behaving irresponsibly and unprofessionally,' Florida Family Action President John Stemberger said.

'The federal court decision is clear that it only applies narrowly to the two plaintiffs and only in Washington County. Elected officials must be held accountable to the law and to the constitution they have sworn to uphold.'

In July, Stemberger said that preventing Gay and Lesbian couples from marrying 'is worth dying for.'

Federal judge OKs marriages
A federal judge ruled on December 31 that Orange County Clerk Tiffany Moore Russell may go ahead and issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples on January 6.

Moore Russell filed a petition the previous day, asking U.S. District Judge Tim Shea to give her instructions on what to do. Although the Florida Association of Clerks and Comptrollers said its members should not issue licenses to Gay and Lesbian couples, Shea said clerks would not be breaking the law if they do so.

'I thank the Court for providing clarity on this issue,' Moore Russell said in a statement after Shea's ruling.

'I specifically want to thank Judge Shea for his guidance in this matter. Since the question of issuing same-sex marriage licenses was first directed at Clerks, my office has consistently stated that we would continue to seek judicial clarification. That is why we filed this emergency petition and we are grateful for the clear direction it provides as we move closer to January 6.'

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