70 gay couples wed in festive, historic ceremony at Delray Beach courthouse
Dancing, singing, hugging and blowing bubbles, about 70 same-sex couples made Palm Beach County history early today, exchanging vows in a midnight ceremony at the south county courthouse in Delray Beach.
“The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice,” Palm Beach County Clerk & Comptroller Sharon Bock, quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, said to a crowd of more than 300 people packed into courthouse rotunda.
“On the day, Jan. 6, 2015, our world will change,” Bock said. The room erupted with cheers as Bock then recited vows in a ceremony that started around 12:33 a.m. See photos.
The couples were married following a New Year’s Day ruling by U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle that clerks throughout the state must issue marriage licenses or be subject to lawsuits and lawyers’ fees from gay couples suing to marry.
“It’s about time is what I feel. I didn’t think it would happen in my lifetime,” said Irma Oliver of West Palm Beach, who wed her partner of 10 years, Julia Borghese.
Joann Ferrieri and Kathryn Copelin-Ferrieri of Lake Worth were the first to pick up their marriage certificate after the early morning ceremony.
“It feels like I belong,” Ferrieri said after receiving the certificate. “I feel like it is complete.”
The couple has been together for five years. “It is a great time to be gay and lesbian,” Ferrieri said. “And in love,” Copelin-Ferrieri added.
The clerk’s office ended the ceremony by serving wedding cake. The two cakes were decorated with figurines – two brides on one and two grooms on the other.
Television show host Suze Orman arrived at the Delray Beach courthouse around 11:30 p.m. She was there with partner Kathy Travis to support friends who were getting be married.
“It’s one thing to be powerful with money, but without personal freedom, money means nothing,” said Orman, a financial advisor. “So, now, we have it all.”
Monday night, hours before the ceremony, more than 100 people lined up outside the courthouse. Same-sex marriages began earlier Monday in Miami-Dade County and are expected to start statewide today.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, then the U.S. Supreme Court, refused Florida’s request to extend an order blocking same-sex marriages beyond Monday, essentially giving the green light to the weddings taking place now.
“We definitely wanted to be married as soon as we could so those nasty people wouldn’t try to stop us,’’ Dianne Barrett of Davie said as she stood in line with her partner of 11 years, Leslie Crowder.
Vernida Turnquist, 67, and Wanda Mason, 57, both of West Palm Beach were the first in line at the Delray Beach courthouse, arriving at 6:30 p.m.
“We love one another. We own property together. We are a complete package,’’ Mason said.
By 9:30 p.m, the line swelled to more than 90. As it snaked down Southwest Second Avenue, a party planning company — Ideal I Do’s — arrived and handed out “Married” balloons and bubbles to couples.
Then a company worker put her iPod in a dock with speakers. As “Don’t Change” by Musiq Soul Child filled the night air, three couples jumped out of line and started dancing in front of the courthouse steps.
“We are here to celebrate and congratulate,” co-owner R.J. Werby said. ‘This is a wonderful and historic moment.”
Even the clerk’s office got into the festive mood. As employees arrived to work the 10 windows that would open, some of them yelled out congratulations. “Hello, love birds,” one employee said, prompting hoots and cheers from the people in line.
The crowd cheered again when a car cruising down Second Avenue honked its horn. It cheered again when “At Last” by Etta James boomed from the speakers.
“Today is the day. We have waited a long time,” said Cori Graham if Lantana, who was set to marry her partner, Ashley Foulds. The couple brought their three children, ages 11, 9 and 6,
Randi Robertson, manager of the south county office, handed out blank cards so couples could write a special note – the cards will be displayed at one of the county’s courthouses as an art project.
For John and Sheldon Goldstein, it was their third ceremony – but Tuesday’s was the first that made it legal. The couple has been together 18 years after meeting outside a McDonald’s in New Jersey.
“I always say I got my Happy Meal,’’ John said,
Palm Beach State Attorney’s Office spokesman Mike Edmondson and his longtime partner, Keith Musbach, planned to be among the first couples married locally.
Edmondson and Musbach have been together 13 years and already had been in a domestic partnership.
Palm Beach Post Staff writer Daphne Duret contributed to this story.