By now you’ve probably seen The Daily Show bit that circulated hither and yon last week, in which Jon Stewart, in that classic Jon Stewart way, lit into Ronnie Fussell (though, mercifully, not by name) and the other clerks of court around the state who shut down all wedding ceremonies in their courthouses rather than officiate the weddings of gays and lesbians — a move he deemed, quite correctly, “unbelievably petty, spiteful and vindictive.”
The segment devolved into a montage of funnyish-but-predictable Florida Man jokes, but still, being mocked on such a public stage, and so deservedly at that, left a mark.
This is the problem I wrote about a few weeks ago. Fussell’s petulance will probably affect Northeast Florida’s gays and lesbians less than it will everyone else; they can still get married, after all, and I would imagine that, like straight couples, most wouldn’t opt for courthouse hitching anyway. But in the eyes of those who are paying attention — businesses thinking of relocating here, for instance, and worried about whether they can attract the kinds of young, diverse, creative innovators who will power the 21st century — the impression sticks as a symptom of a larger, more pervasive illness: This is a city out of touch, mired in the muck of past prejudices, unable to compete, unworthy of their attention.
Gay marriage as a political issue may well be over by summer, with the Supreme Court poised to finally and perhaps decisively weigh in. But even if gay marriage becomes the law of the land — as I suspect it will — and even if there’s some sort of accord on Duval County courthouse weddings, as many observers expect, this impression will linger.
No, it’s not entirely fair. This city is in fact changing, is in fact becoming more tolerant and diverse and, well, decent. It was no small thing that Jacksonville elected a black man as mayor four years ago, however fortuitous his victory and whatever you think of the job he’s done since. And it’s no small thing how the community reacted to Fussell’s decision.
Two weeks ago, I put out a call for any notaries, clergy or otherwise-authorized people who are willing to officiate same-sex weddings at or below what the courthouse would have charged ($30), with the promise that I’d print their contact information both in this column and in our forthcoming Book of Love issue. They responded — a lot of them, more than I anticipated, frankly. (I’m sure we’re just scratching the surface here; if your name isn’t listed and you’re willing and able to officiate same-sex weddings, email me pronto.) And they are evidence that Jacksonville isn’t as backward as some of our leaders make us appear.
Here are their names and contact information, in alphabetical order:
Notary public Christa Carey ([email protected]).
Jacksonville attorney Ray Forbess Sr. (630 W. Adams St., Downtown, 634-0900); no charge if the couple doesn’t have the funds, but would prefer a $30 donation be made to either First Coast No More Homeless Pets or the Sulzbacher Center.
Avery Garner, pastor of St. Luke’s Community Church of Jacksonville (1140 McDuff Ave. S., Murray Hill, 389-7726); no charge during the rest of 2015 (as his schedule permits), whether the participants want a Christian or secular wedding.
Local attorney and notary Jonathan Grasselle (215 Newnan St., Downtown, 353-6333, [email protected]); no charge, will perform ceremonies in his conference room on the fourth floor of the Old Morocco Temple building, or at Memorial Park in Riverside.
Attorney Liana Rothstein Hood (4417 Beach Blvd., Ste. 104, San Marco, 398-1419, [email protected]); no charge.
Public notary Jessica Lerner ([email protected]), $30 plus travel, if necessary.
Jennifer O’Donnell at Chamblin’s Uptown (215 N. Laura St., Downtown, 674-0868, [email protected]); no charge. Please put “Marriage” in the subject line of your email.
Belkis Plata and Shannon Schott of the law firm Plata Schott Attorneys & Counselors at Law (50 N. Laura St., Ste. 2500, Downtown, 516-5560, [email protected]).
Ronald E. Rohrer of River City Legal Support (12789 Kingsley Ave., Orange Park, 356-2347).
The Rev. Teresa “Tea” Rorstrom, an ordained pagan priest ([email protected]).
Ordained minister Kerry Speckman, aka The Specktator ([email protected]); $30 for the ceremony, though she will donate $5 of that fee to JASMYN.
Notary public Shavone E. Steele ([email protected]).
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Jacksonville (7405 Arlington Expwy., 725-8133) will sign marriage certificates for gay and lesbian couples for $30, and will rent out its facilities to same-sex couples at its usual rates.
St. Augustine notary Maureen Welch ([email protected]).