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Flagler Court Clerk Gail Wadsworth on Gay Marriage: “People Should Have Freedom to Be.”

| December 22, 2014

Flagler County Clerk of Court Gail Wadsworth. (© FlaglerLive)

Flagler County Clerk of Court Gail Wadsworth. (© FlaglerLive)

Flagler County Clerk of Court Gail Wadsworth and her deputy, Tom Bexley, said Monday they are ready to issue same-sex marriage license with open doors and open arms—either on Jan. 6 or as soon as the law enables them to do so, and the attorneys for the clerks’ association gives them the go-ahead.

Wadsworth, one of Flagler County’s most prominent and longes-serving Republicans, prefaced her ideas about same-sex marriage with a story that involved her personally.

“I have a young man who was with me for a period of time because he told his parents he was gay, they kicked him out,” Wadsworth said. “I’ve known him since he was 7, so, in an odd way, I hurt for their inability to be what they are. So I will never say no to one of them. Really, if you live in this world at all, we, you and I obviously know same-sex couples. They may not be declared but they are, and they have no ability whatsoever to gain each other’s Social Security benefits and other benefits, they can’t stand beside a bed when somebody is dying, they can’t sign off on death wishes or life wishes, and for the most part this will give them a greater ability to live an take care of each other, which they can’t do today. And that’s important.” Wadsworth added: “I believe people should have freedom to be.”

But the clerk’s office is waiting for an interpretation of law from lawyers for the Florida Court Clerks and Comptrollers Association, who have cautioned so far that  “until a binding order is issued by a court of proper jurisdiction,” issuing marriage licenses, even starting Jan. 6. It’s still not been made clear to clerks around the state whether the federal decision that declared Florida’s same-sex marriage ban applies in Washington County alone or across the state.

“It may apply only to Washington county. I hope not,” Wadsworth said. “I hope they don’t do something in one piece of Florida and not another, let’s let the rule be uniform. But I don’t know, I’m not a lawyer.”

On Aug. 21, Federal District Court Judge Robert Hinkle ruled that Florida’s marriage ban—passed by 62 percent of voters in a 2008 referendum—is unconstitutional. Hinkle, appointed by Bill Clinton in 1996, likened the ban to laws that forbade interracial marriage. But the ruling was stayed until Jan. 5, 2015.

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a request from Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi to extend the stay, refusing to delay the freedom to marry in Florida. The stay will now expire on Jan. 5, even as the appeal in the Florida marriage cases proceed in the 11th Circuit. An oral argument in Atlanta, where the 11th Circuit is based, is not yet scheduled.

“We all have our opinions as individuals,” Tom Bexley, Wadsworth’s chief deputy, said Monday. “I can tell you when it becomes legally mandated it’s our intent to immediately start issuing these licenses and performing ceremonies as quickly as possible. We want to be the place where people want to come to do these ceremonies.”  He added: “I think most clerk’s offices in the state of Florida are going to agree with that, open the doors with open arms kind of thing.” But, Bexley said, “We have an idea of what’s going to happen.”

To get married in Flagler County—and this will be the case for different-sex or same-sex couples—people walk into the recording department on the first floor of the courthouse, fill out the marriage-license application in front of a deputy clerk (see below), show identification, pay a $93.50 fee, and wait the required three days to be married. Three days later (or up to 60 days from the issuance of the license) they can be legally married by one of the clerk’s more than three dozen deputy clerks. The marriage itself can be done in the clerk’s office or at the beach, or skydiving, or anywhere else. “As of today,” Bexley said, “any deputy clerk can perform a marriage ceremony anywhere in Flagler County.”

When gay marriage becomes legal in Flagler County (as it inevitably will), the clerk’s office says there will be a handful of applicants, but, Bexley said, “I don’t all of a sudden think we’ll have them lined out the door.”

Meanwhile, clerks and others await the legal untangling of court decisions and their interpretations.

Florida is one of only 15 states where same-sex couples do not have the right to marry. In more than 25 amicus briefs that have been or will be submitted this week to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, scores of first responders, law enforcement officials, states, cities, faith leaders and businesses urge the court to end Florida’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples. The briefs show the depth and diversity of support for the plaintiffs in the Florida cases and for the freedom of gay and lesbian couples to marry.

More than 200 first responders and law enforcement signed on to a brief, including Chief Jane Castor, Chief of Police, Tampa Police Department; Chief David Frisby, Police Chief (Ret.), Monticello Police Department; Chief Sharon Lippman, Battalion Chief (Ret.), Tallahassee Fire Department; Chief Walt McNeil, Police Chief (Ret.), Tallahassee Police; and Cindy Dick, Fire Chief (Ret.), Tallahassee Fire Department. “I have worked beside and supervised lesbian cops. They did the same job and paid the same dues as I did. They deserve the same legal rights and protections that I enjoy,” said Chief Frisby.

The Florida Family Policy Council, a lobbying organization that has opposed gay marriage, argues that “the correct legal and constitutional position is that marriage is a state’s rights issue and each state should have the ability to define marriage as a matter of public policy in that state.  The Equal Protection arguments are completely without any merit as courts are simply creating rights out of thin air, twisting the history and meaning of the constitution like Play Dough (sic.).  This is classic textbook judicial activism where judges are seeking to be social change agents and legislating from the bench instead of objectively interpreting the law.”

The religious community is not uniformly opposed to same-sex marriage, however. Leo Frade, Bishop of the Diocese of Southeast Florida, Trinity Cathedral (Episcopalian) and Rev. Gloria Van Houten, United Church of Christ Minister and Member of The Open and Affirming Ministry Team in Sarasota, are among the more than 200 signers of a religious communities brief.  “Jesus saw fit to conduct his first miracle at a wedding at Cana in Galilee,” said Bishop Frade. “As I near the end of my tenure here as Bishop of Southeast Florida, I hope my last miracle will be to marry two friends in Christ who have been prevented from doing so for far too long.”

Broward County, Palm Beach County, Orange County, Alachua County, City of Coconut Creek, City of Gainesville, City of Hallandale Beach, City of Key West, City of Miami Beach, City of Orlando, City of St. Petersburg, City of South Miami, City of Tallahassee, City of Tampa, City of West Palm Beach, City of Wilton Manors and Village of Biscayne Park signed onto a brief. No Flagler government, including city governments, signed on.

“The breadth and depth of these amici briefs demonstrate the groundswell of support for the freedom to marry,” said Nadine Smith, CEO of Equality Florida. “A Federal district court in Florida has now joined the 60 other state and federal courts – including four federal appellate courts – who over the past year have affirmed the freedom to marry and held the denial of marriage to be unconstitutional. We believe when the 11th Circuit justices consider this case and makes note of the diversity of support, they, too, will affirm the right of everyone to marry the person they love.”

Marriage License Form, Flagler

41 Responses for “Flagler Court Clerk Gail Wadsworth on Gay Marriage: “People Should Have Freedom to Be.””

  1. Kendall says:

    Thank you Gail Wadsworth!

  2. orphan says:

    Well written. Thank you for presenting this article as a non-biased article/report.
    I understand that most people will disagree with this article and I agree with their right to do so.
    However! I have to ask all of those who would disagree, this question: “What is your experience with same-sex couples?”
    Have you ever experienced how just the touch of a friend’s hand can fill you with the warmest feeling and a desire to respond in a warm way?
    Have you ever spent years dodging questions about your sexuality?
    Did you EVER stop to think that the *girlfriend* *boyfriend* *buddy* *co-worker* *neighbor* whomever, is someone you are near right at this moment and might feel the same?
    We’ve come a long way as a society. I’m glad we’re finally beginning to realize that.

  3. Ron R. says:

    You go, Gail!

    I had the pleasure of meeting you one day while I was in renewing our tags. You struck me as a genuinely nice person and I enjoyed chatting with you.

    I’m a long term Democrat, but you are one Republican I will always, always support!

  4. Bob Cuff says:

    Far from being”classic textbook judicial activism,” courts protecting the rights of individuals from the tyranny of the majority is actually called “doing their job” as the constitutions of this state and the United States provide – especially when the “majority” is largely self-proclaimed, as seems increasingly to be the case here.

  5. Carol Fisher says:

    Thank you Gail for this common sense statement. We ALL know people that are gay. Many of us have them in our families. We must come around to the reality that we need to treat them fairly and offer them the same benefits and rights that we do heterosexual couples.

  6. confidential says:

    Common sense!

  7. nobigdeal says:

    A civil union law that gives your personal benefits to the partner would be the easy solution. You do not need to call it a marriage because in the true definition of marriage it is not.

    • Ron R. says:

      Not sure what dictionary you are using for the “true definition” of marriage, but here is what Merriam-Webster says:

      mar·riage noun \ˈmer-ij, ˈma-rij\

      a (1) : the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law (2) : the state of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage
      b : the mutual relation of married persons : wedlock
      c : the institution whereby individuals are joined in a marriage

      Seems right to me.

      • nobigdeal says:

        sorry, but i should have written “my true definition” instead of “the true definition” as i am entitled to my own opionion, but i am curious to know if that definition had or has been changed to the way it reads now. i just want to make it clear that i believe same sex couples should have these rights.

    • Nancy N says:

      So in your world gays can have “civil unions” and straights can have “marriage”.

      In case you hadn’t heard…the Supreme Court ruled decades ago that there is no such thing as “separate but equal”, and establishing separate services for different people based on a group they belong to isn’t legal.

  8. SW says:

    Hey Pam are listening

  9. Sherry Epley says:

    While we are getting into semantics and word definitions here. Why not save the tax payers from the expense of changing words in current laws and leave the legal definition of marriage as it is. Remember, marriage IS a civil union. The current marriage ceremony is NOT required to be performed by a religious person, and is in fact often celebrated in places other than churches. . . think about popular destination weddings on beaches, in restaurants, etc.

    Why not call the holy ceremony. . . which is completely separate from the legal requirements, as it should be. . . something different? The words “holy matrimony” were suggested by another person commenting here in the past. The religious leaders could then continue to choose the unions they wish to bless . . . in “holy matrimony”. . . according to their particular belief system.

  10. Lancer says:

    Agree. However, people and businesses need to have their rights protected if they don’t agree and don’t wish to do business with homosexual weddings.

    • Ulrich says:

      Lancer, do businesses that don’t want to serve people of different religions also need their rights protected? How about businesses that don’t “agree” with inter-racial marriage? What if one of the people marrying is an atheist? Maybe, you just believe that discrimination should only be allowed towards gays. Well, in any case, if you’ve created a business that serves the public, then it serves all of the public, period.

    • Will says:

      Come on, Lancer…. that’s a civil rights issue…. businesses should have the right to deny people with dark skins, people who are shorter than average, and people with funny names too. NOT

  11. Flatsflyer says:

    Marriage is not a Religious Ceremony, rather it is a Civil Ceremony that the State allows certain Religious person to perform. The Ceremony can also be performed by non Religious persons, Notary, Judges, Attorneys, Ships Captains and many others. For some strange reason the Religious Right does not have the capacity to understand this.

    • Lancer says:

      You have the right string, but the wrong yo-yo.

      No one is saying that gays shouldn’t have the rights to marry. The problem is that all across the country, businesses are being sued because they do NOT agree with gay marriage due to their religious convictions. That is wrong.

      There is a double edged sword of freedom that revolves around tolerance, not acceptance. Homosexuality will never be accepted by all. That it should be tolerated in a free society should be enough, but for those who can’t understand the aforementioned “double edge sword”…we have lawsuits around the country.

      • Ulrich says:

        Lancer, should businesses that serve the public have the right to refuse service to a customer because of her race or religion? What if she had a child out of wedlock, should a business have the right to refuse her service? What if she fought in a war with which the business owner disagreed, should the right of service be refused?

        • Lancer says:


          A business can absolutely choose and has the right to choose who they wish to serve. Ask smokers! Next you’ll tellme there’s only one bakery in colorado!

          • Ulrich says:

            Lancer, equating smoking to being gay? So, following your logic, you could pick up the “habit” of being gay just as smokers pick up their habit? Have you personally experienced this?

  12. It's About Time says:

    It’s hard to believe that in this day and age some people still have issues with granting FULL rights to members of the LGBT community. This is supposed to be a country of great freedom – therefore, everyone should be allowed to live as they choose without the meddling interference of others. Kudos to you Gail – Thank You and Merry Christmas!

  13. confidential says:

    Can we all get along and live in peaceful coexistence respecting one another in spite of sexual orientation, ancestry, religion, financial status and color? We should all look forward and work for a more peaceful 2015. Merrier Christmas to all.

  14. Just sayin says:

    Outside are the homosexuals, those involved with the occult and with drugs, the sexually immoral, murderers, idol-worshippers, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. 16 “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the Church. I am the Root and Offspring of David, the bright Morning Star. 17 The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come!’ Let anyone who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let anyone who is thirsty come – let anyone who wishes, take the water of life free of charge.” 18 I warn everyone hearing the words of the prophecy in this book that if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues written in this book. 19 And if anyone takes anything away from the words in the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the Tree of Life and the holy city, as described in this book. 20 “The one who is testifying to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon!'” Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! 21 May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with all!

    • krista says:

      what does being gay.. have to do with doing drugs and occult and all the other ridiculous things you mention…
      and you know what HOMOSEXUALS… are everywhere… so beware…. you might even have one in your family

      • Just sayin says:

        I didn’t right the Book. God did. If there is a homosexual in my family that is up to them and God on the day of judgement. I would still love them as my family member but I would tell them the truth. By the way all of the “ridiculous” things I mentioned is called sin and people who continue to practice such things will be left out of Gods presence whether you think it’s ridiculous or not. It is not up to you or me.

        • Ulrich says:

          Just sayin, if being gay was such an egregious sin, one would think it would have been included in the ten commandments, but, anyway, can you show me where in the bible Jesus states homosexuality is wrong?

          • Just sayin says:

            Ulrich, the word homosexual was not used until the 1800’s. The bible and Jesus used the greek word ekporneuo when translated to English means fornication.

            The definition of fornication would then include: heterosexual relations before marriage, homosexual relations at any time, incest, bestiality, prostitution and pornography. All sex outside of marriage is considered fornication by God. With that being said here is just one example of many.

            Mark 7:20 And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. (21) For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, (22) Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: (23) All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.

            • Ulrich says:

              Just sayin,
              So, this interpretation of one ancient word is what gives people the right to oppress others? If this is what you choose to believe, that is your right and you should, therefore, not get involved in a gay romantic relationship. However, your rights stop where the rights of others begin. It is not within your right to force others to live their lives according to your religious beliefs.

          • Sandra Hardy says:

            King James Version of Romans 1:27.

            And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

  15. It’s so good to see progress. Let’s keep going until nationwide, an adult, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, or religion, is free to share love, sex, residence, and marriage (and any of those without the others) with any and all consenting adults, without fear of prosecution, bullying, or discrimination.

  16. krista says:

    The link for the marriage license still does not reflect same sex couples? Still says Groom and Bride?
    The LGBT community in Palm Coast is growing and I am glad their is support out there !!

  17. Lancer says:

    This is happening…a private business owner, who does NOT agree with gay marriage due to his religious convictions being sued in Colorado. This is happening all over the country…it is not right.

    • Will says:

      It’s such a travesty, isn’t it Lancer? The next thing you know that poor private business owner might be forced to provide service to a mixed race married couple too. Or even, sell a cake to a known gay or lesbian person for a birthday party. What is happening to this country?

      • Lancer says:

        Actually, you’re making an assertion that homosexuality is not chosen, as is race. That simply hasn’t been proven to be the case.

        Therefore, a person is perfectly within their rights to refuse service…or is there only one bakery in Colorado?

        • Ulrich says:

          Lancer, why don’t you share your experience with us? Explain your process of choosing to be heterosexual. How long did it take to decide? Do your gay inclinations remain? Have you ever “fallen off the wagon”, so to speak?

  18. Concerned Citizen says:

    I know everyone is entitled to their own opinions and have a right to do whatever suits them..But in the BIBLE, GOD made MALE AND FEMALE, and said for them to Multiply. Two women can’t have children nor can Two men have children…GOD said ADAM and EVE. Not ADAM and STEVE…This is my opinion…Read Genesis book in the BIBLE..We all will stand before God by our own self, not with your husband or wife or partner…BY YOURSELF…God Bless U All..

    • Ulrich says:

      Concerned Citizen, if this is your belief, then, I suggest that you do not marry someone of your gender. But, you should not impose your beliefs on others and want them to live according to what your faith dictates.

    • Nancy N says:

      Ok, so by your argument, then a married couple who can’t have children (or choose not to) shouldn’t be allowed to marry either, since the purpose of marriage is to multiply? How do you propose to implement this – through fertility tests before a marriage license is issued, or by laws saying a marriage will be nullified if natural offspring are not produced within a certain amount of time?

      Bad luck Grandma…guess no remarriage for you after Grandpa dies, huh?

  19. Will says:

    Judge Hinkle clarified his ruling today, Jan. 1st. The law applies to ALL clerks in Florida, not just one county.

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