Marriage equality finally comes to Florida 

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"It ought to be a local decision. I mean, a state decision. The state decided. The people of the state decided. But it's been overturned by the courts, I guess." – Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush after a round of golf

Even if you removed all of the hyperbolic superlatives from the vaunted journalism lexicon, pissed on them and then set them on fire, you would still hazard an errant exclamation point at the events that transpired in relation to same-sex marriage over the holidays when nobody was watching. The ball of confusion that resulted from numerous marriage cases all coming to a head at once – and the inexplicable stonewalling that followed from Attorney General Pam Bondi and the farce she rode in on – left most of us a little concerned, even threadbare.

This publication went out on a limb to complain about Orange County Clerk of Courts Tiffany Moore Russell and her muted position on the issue in our year-ending issue ("2015 New Year's Resolutions," Dec. 31), only to find ourselves on the wrong side of our own history when Moore Russell – a longtime LGBT ally – popped her head out of the fog to say that she would be issuing licenses, because she was working behind the scenes to make certain that said licenses would be binding.

-- 46: Number of county clerks who initially said that they would not issue same-sex marriage licenses before the historic ruling by U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle on New Year's Day ruling the state's ban on marriage unconstitutional --

At any rate, all of the stars have seemingly aligned now, and by the time you read this, there will be husbands with husbands and wives with wives following the expiration of the court-ordered stay that had allowed the state to keep its ban on marriage equality in place. (We will have extended coverage of the nuptials in our Jan. 14 issue.) A federal court judge ordered on New Year's Day that marriage equality is now the law in all counties, starting Jan. 6 – fun fact: Jan. 6 is also the date that Gov. Rick Scott delivers his inauguration speech.

So what could possibly be bad about all the lovers loving and now being able to memorialize their love just like heterosexual couples do? Let's ask those who make money on making said couples feel terrible about themselves. Even after U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle clarified his order – the one that conservatives were reading to mean that you would have to hightail it up to Washington County, where the clerk hates gays, to get that beloved marriage license – to let clerks know that, as of Jan. 6, they are breaking the law should they even try to deny same-sex couples their equal rights, the haters were still hating.

-- 67: Number of county clerks who must now issue same-sex marriage licenses as of Jan. 6 --

"Accident" attorney John Stemberger, of the political hate group Florida Family Action Inc., filed two failed lawsuits attempting to muzzle Hinkle's order and scare Central Florida officials into silence. He lost, naturally, but not before pulling out his Boy Scout uniform for a big cry.

"All three of these officials have shown great contempt and disrespect for the rule of law and are behaving irresponsibly and unprofessionally," he said in a statement on Dec. 31. "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. Part of the reason for the recent landslide mid-term election was the utter disregard and insolence shown by President Obama for the rule of law, which is now infecting so many other politicians across America. Respect for law must be restored or else legitimacy in government as an institution will diminish at an even greater rate. Ultimately, if these local officials continue in this same reckless pattern of behavior, they could easily face the same fate as so many other politicians did who are now retired as a result of the last election."

Ooooh, them's fighting words. Following the deafening blow handed to both him and his politics, Stemberger, at least according to his Twitter account, got back to the business of hawking a new Rifqa Bary book and meddling in extreme-right presidential politics.

Speaking of presidential politics, remnant Gov. Jeb Bush poked his head into the debate for half of a second, clearly trying to ensure his far-right credentials should he (obviously) run in 2016. Fresh from a golfing jag, he told the Miami Herald that he thought gay marriage was a states' rights issue, which is Republi-code for I Got Mine, basically. The response from the American Civil Liberties Union was, as usual, apropos.

"So the people should have the right to enact a discriminatory law?" Florida ACLU chairman Howard Simon told the Herald. "That sounds like what he was saying. That unfortunately is consistent from what I remember about Jeb Bush's tenure as governor."

So what happens now? Well, hopefully we move forward. Bondi's appeal to the 11th District in Atlanta has been all but declined – we await a judgment on its merits, although she has not shown signs that she will defend her appeal – and every county clerk has to at least provide the licenses, even if some are refusing to host the weddings. Our sense is that what happens now is that people, finally, are treated with equality and left alone in their chosen microcosms while still living the American life, but what do we know?

And all of this happened over the holidays!

Click here for photos from some of the weddings that took place in Orlando yesterday!

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