FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The Broward County Clerk of Court opened its main office downtown at midnight to accept marriage license applications from same-sex couples who want to get married.
Three hours later at 3 a.m. Tuesday, the jury assembly room, which seats hundreds, will be transformed into a giant wedding chapel for a group wedding ceremony.
Clerk of Court Howard Forman said he's not going to make same-sex couples wait any longer.
"It's a historical moment. There's no question about it," Forman told Local 10 News. "You know, many people fought for this right to be married and for many years the state turned them down."
Robin Bodiford and her fiancé, Sandra Picardi, planned to be among the first in line.
"This is a day that I never thought I'd see in my lifetime," Bodiford said.
It's a proud moment for them, not only as a couple, but for Bodiford as a gay rights activist. She led the charge 16 years ago in persuading Broward County to extend employment benefits to domestic partners.
"Marriage is the penultimate way to say 'I love you' in this culture, basically, worldwide, and we are now able to do that and I can't wait," Bodiford said.
Another engaged couple said they would be waiting in line.
"It's touching. Its exciting. Its exhilarating," Jessica Nielson said. "I'm just so happy it's finally here."
Roberta Marpet, Nielson's fiancé, said she knew the time would come.
"I knew it would happen and I'm so glad that Florida finally, finally, finally did it," she said.
For some, the thought of marriage came as a bit of a surprise.
Oren Hertz surprised his partner of seven years by asking for his hand in marriage. The couple had only a few hours to celebrate with family and friends before saying "I do."
"We knew that this day would come one day," Hertz said. "And so to anyone at home who expected that day and anyone who thinks that this is not right, just focus on the love, because at the end of the day love is love."
Hundreds of miles away in Tallahassee, the woman who led the state's legal fight to keep all this from happening seemed resigned to it all.
"Well, best wishes to them," Attorney General Pam Bondi said. "Umm, we wanted the court process to takes its place and it did."
For the next three days, Forman has waived the statutory requirement that couples take a four hour premarital counseling course or wait three days before getting married after submitting their application.
"There will be so many people, such a crush of people, for the first three days we're going to do that," he said. "Three days from now, things will go back to normal and it will be the same as it was for traditional marriage."
Marriage license applications will also be available at the county's satellite courthouses beginning Tuesday at 9 a.m.
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