MIAMI – Less than two hours after a Miami-Dade County judge lifted a stay that cleared the way for gay marriage, two same-sex couples were among the first to be married in her court chambers.
"I'm lifting the stay," Judge Sarah Zabel said Monday morning at the conclusion of a brief hearing.
Her words brought cheer to the courtroom and, perhaps more importantly, meant licenses could be issued to same-sex couples in Miami-Dade County immediately.
Todd Delmay and his partner, Jeff Delmay, didn't waste any time. They were among the first to be married in Zabel's chambers.
"We're here," Todd Delmay told Local 10 News. "Today is the day."
Their marriages followed Cathy Pareto and Karla Arguello.
"We were very thankful for Judge Zabel's decision today," Pareto told Local 10.
Both couples were among the six who filed a lawsuit challenging Florida's gay marriage ban.
In July, Zabel ruled that Florida's same-sex marriage ban violates equal protections under the U.S. Constitution. However, Zabel issued a stay immediately after her ruling while the state appealed the decision.
Other gay couples anxiously waited at the county clerk's office for their number to be called.
"It is also, basically, a chance and an opportunity to be treated like anyone else," Juan Talavera told Local 10 as he and partner Jeff Ronci got their marriage license.
Aymarah Robles and partner Deborah Shure were in the courtroom when Zabel made her decision.
"It reinforces the belief that each person can choose who they love and to support," Robles told Local 10.
Jose Tieles and his partner, Jorge Garcia, made history when they exchanged vows in what is believed to be the first gay marriage in Florida history.
"We have been waiting for this for 25 years we've been together," he told Local 10.
Florida becomes the 36th state where gay marriage is legal. But those couples living elsewhere in the state must wait a little longer.
A federal judge recently ruled that a stay to Florida's same-sex marriage ban should expire at midnight Jan. 5.
"I hope everybody has the same chance as we are having," Tieles said.
In Broward County, the clerk of court is waving the statutory requirement that couples take a four-hour premarital counseling course or wait three days before getting married after submitting their applications. The county was expected to issue licenses at midnight and perform a mass wedding at 3 a.m. Tuesday.
A Key West couple has already applied for their marriage license and expect to get married early Tuesday morning.