Hillsborough may utilize Chillura Park for rush of same-sex weddings

By : Staff Report
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Tampa – Hillsborough County Clerk of the Court Pat Frank is ready for a rush of same-sex couples wanting to be legally married on Jan. 6. Frank told media outlets that she has secured a permit to use Chillura Courthouse Square Park to perform outside ceremonies if her downtown offices become too crowded.

Frank told ABC Action News in Tampa that she would waive the three-day waiting period normally required for couples hoping to get married.

Pinellas County officials are also prepared for a rush, but no special preparations like outdoor facilities are in the plan. Ken Burke, Pinellas County Clerk of the Court, said he is prepared to issue licenses to same-sex couples, but wants to remind those wanting to get married about the online courses available in order for him to waive the three-day waiting period. He fully expects some same-sex marriages to take place the morning of Jan. 6 at the Clerk’s offices in Clearwater or St. Petersburg.

In Sarasota, the county is prepared for same-gender couples, but there aren’t any specific, official weddings planned. However, Sarasota Pride executive director Cindy Barnes became a notary shortly before the new year and plans to marry two same-sex couples at 9 a.m. Jan. 6 at the Sarasota County Courthouse.

“Karen Rushing’s office opens at 8:30 a.m. and you have to go through some security,” Barnes said. “Then they have to get the licenses.”

Once those licenses are issued, Barnes plans to conduct the wedding ceremonies on the spot.

So far, there is only one Tampa Bay County who has expressed an issue with same-sex marriages. Pasco County Clerk Paula O’Neil announced in October that marriage ceremonies would not be conducted by county staff, whether the couple is of the same or opposite gender. O’Neal told the Tampa Bay Times that the personal and religious beliefs of her staff were of concern and that some were “uncomfortable” officiating same-sex weddings.
“The problem is we can’t discriminate,” she told the paper. “So there are some people who have wanted to transfer to another area, and we can’t transfer everybody.”

The website for Pasco County says that couples who do want to marry immediately will be given options available for the service, including a list of ordained ministers, clergy and notaries of the State of Florida who are available.

Besides concerns over her staff being “uncomfortable” with same-gender weddings, she also said budgetary concerns promoted the change.

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