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Gays Who Want to Marry ASAP: Take Premarital Course Now or Encounter Three-Day Delay

It's looking likely that gay marriage in Florida can proceed after January 5, and court clerks around the state have been seeking advice from legal experts about exactly how and when they will issue marriage licenses and let weddings proceed.

Yesterday, the Broward Clerk's Office posted a memo on its website announcing that it's "working with counsel" to determine its protocol, but Cathy Kellerman, court operations manager, tells New Times that the courthouse is "ready for an onslaught."

She suggested that gay couples who are interested in marrying ASAP take a required premarital course now --- otherwise, they'll have a three-day wait between the time they get their license and the time a ceremony is allowed.

A wedding planner, a rabbi, and the head of the county's Convention and Visitors Bureau each also told New Times they were ready for the wedding biz to blow up.

Kellerman says her office has been looking to an association called the Florida Court Clerks and Comptrollers for advice on when they can issue licenses and perform weddings. "Do we wait until the end of the business day on the 5th? Or 12:01?"

Most couples will need to take a premarital course -- which is good for one year -- so they should do that now if they want to marry right away, Kellerman advises. Otherwise, they'd "come in on January 6 and still have to wait three days." Any deputy clerk on duty in the courthouse can perform a wedding onsite, she says.

As the Broward Clerk's Office website explains:

The standard marriage license fee is $93.50 and includes a 3-day waiting period before a marriage ceremony can be performed. The only exceptions to the 3-day waiting period are: -- If both applicants reside out-of-state and are able to present valid proof of photo identification indicating their out-of-state address at the time of filing the marriage license application. (Please call our office for other acceptable proof.) -- If the applicants present an original pre-marital course completion certificate at the time of filing the marriage license application. NOTE: If the couple elects the option to attend a pre-marital course from a registered provider, the marriage license fee is lowered to $61.00 and the waiting period is waived upon providing an original certificate of completion at the time of filing the application.

Find a course provider here.

Though there are a few complicated legal scenarios that could delay the implementation of same-sex weddings in Florida, they are seeming unlikely.

Nikki Grossman, head of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitor's Bureau, hinted that she would have a big announcement in the coming days or weeks to encourage gay weddings. "Without tipping our hand," she said, "we sure would be missing a good bet if we were not prepared."

She was "delighted that all couples -- not just heterosexual ones -- would have a chance to be married in this great wedding destination." Grossman said that after Fort Lauderdale made international headlines last month for its crackdown on public feedings for homeless people, she received angry emails from people threatening to cancel trips but that no events were actually canceled. She noted her office has been publicly welcoming LGBT travelers since 1993.

Charles James, proprietor of a Wilton Manors wedding planner called Weddings-by-the-Sea, said he'd had "hardly any calls" for gay weddings but "I wish we had. December is usually slow for weddings anyway." He said he's performed many commitment ceremonies for gay couples in his 27 years in business.

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Deirdra Funcheon

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