A small number of gay couples throughout Florida tried unsuccessfully to obtain marriage license applications Friday, part of a nationwide push designed to raise awareness of same-sex unions.
According to Florida law, ``no county court judge or clerk of the circuit court in this state shall issue a license for the marriage of any person unless ... one party is a male and the other party is a female.'' Every state in the nation bans gay marriage.
In Key West, seven couples arrived in a group, along with some other supporters, and asked for marriage applications Friday afternoon from the Monroe County clerk's office. They were turned away.
``We told them we could not issue them an application for a marriage license,'' said deputy clerk Jacquelyn Donohue. ``They were very nice about it. They were making a point.''
Around the country, gays and lesbians -- bolstered by the issuing of more than 150 marriage licenses to San Francisco gay couples and the constitutional debate over gay marriage in Massachusetts -- went to courthouses seeking the right to marry.No Florida gay couple had success, and knew going into the courthouses that they wouldn't.
``We wanted to put a face on the issue,'' said Rev. Ruth Jensen, who started the First Coast Metropolitan Community Church in St. Augustine, a denomination open to the gay, lesbian and transgender community.
Jensen and her partner, Elizabeth Forbell, exchanged wedding bands at Jacksonville's Unitarian Church 16 years ago. Their marriage, however, is not recognized by the state.
Jensen and Forbell were among four same-sex couples declined applications at the St. Johns County courthouse in St. Augustine. Another gay couple was declined at the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando, said clerk's office spokeswoman Colleen Riley.
The gay couples said they remained hopeful that, one day, their unions will be viewed as legal.
``We plan to come back next year, and we'll continue calling attention to the discrimination that exists against lesbians and gays,'' Steven Leonard-Robinson, who was part of the group turned away in Key West, told The Key West Citizen. ``And we'll continue to share our love and commitment without the benefits provided to most citizens.''