Orange County preps for legal same-sex marriage

By : Jamie Hyman
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Orlando – The Clerk of Courts office has begun the groundwork necessary to implement legal same-sex marriage in Orange County.

Eddie Fernandez, Orange County Clerk of Courts, said their marriage forms are being “reviewed and revised” in anticipation of a victory for marriage equality advocates.
“Whenever the legislature or court systems are considering changes that impact us, we always prepare ahead of time,” said Fernandez. “In this case, we’ve prepared for the [state] ban [on same-sex marriage] to be deemed unconstitutional.”

In the meantime, they’ve expanded Orange County’s domestic partner registration to all five of the County’s Clerk of Courts offices. Previously, couples could only be registered at the County Comptroller’s office downtown. The Clerk of Courts offices are located in downtown Orlando, Apopka, Ocoee, Winter Park and on Goldenrod Road.

Fernandez said in most counties, the clerk and comptrollers’ offices are combined – Orange is unusual, a split county. He said he had the idea to allow registration at the Clerk of Courts offices in February. Fernandez said staff checked the logistics to be sure the plan was “legally permitted and legally possible,” then held focus groups with gay and lesbian community members and community leaders to see determine if the idea would be useful.

“If I was to issue a same-sex marriage license, it would be a misdemeanor,” Fernandez said. “This is the most that I can do, that we can do as an office and me as an official, while still staying within the law.”

He added that the while couples can fill out a domestic registry form anywhere – they can even be downloaded from the Orange County website – the Comptroller’s and Clerks Offices are one-stop shops where couples can fill out the forms, have them notarized and have them submitted to the Comptrollers’ office all at one time.

The expansion was announced at a press conference Sept. 8 and implemented immediately. Fernandez said the first couple was registered at the Winter Park Clerk of Courts office the morning of Sept. 10.

“It’s important to make [the domestic partner registry] accessible to all of Orange County, not just the people who happen to live downtown,” he said. “I think it adds a great deal of dignity to process a DPR at the same counter, same office, same building where people go to get married.”

The Orange County domestic partner registry was created in July of 2012. The City of Orlando launched their registry in January of 2012. The Orange County registry allows friends and neighbors to designate each other as surrogates.

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