A straight, personal injury attorney in Jacksonville was so angered by the actions of the Florida county clerks who halted all weddings rather than marry gay couples, that he is filing suit - and you can help.
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When attorney Eric Block heard about the six Florida county clerks who ended all courthouse weddings rather than marry same-sex couples, he was so incensed that he announced his law firm, Eric Block Law, would officiate at the weddings of anyone denied the service at the nearby Duval County Courthouse, where Southern Baptist clerk Ronnie Fussell had taken a stand.
"I believe marriage is between a man and a woman." Fussell told reporters. "Personally it would go against my beliefs to perform a ceremony that is other than that."
As personal injury attorneys, marrying people was not a natural fit for Eric Block Law. But as a straight ally who found he had the ability to mitigate Mr. Fussell's bigotry, not to mention as someone who has spent the last twenty years fighting for justice, Rick Block felt compelled to do what he could to help.
"I have a personal and professional obligation to uphold the law and the rights of all of our citizens." Rick wrote in his blog, Crossing Boundaries. "In addition, I have committed that my law offices will perform such ceremonies for free, and even more, if the couple could not afford a marriage license, we would pay for it."
But even as Rick and other sympathetic lawyers and judges try to compensate for the rebelling clerks, he recognizes their efforts are not a long-term fix - nor will they end with justice being done.
"The Clerks are using these Chapel closings to show their personal opposition to same sex-marriage," wrote Rick, "but there is one major problem with their decision: they are circumventing the law!"
So even though family law is not his usual bailiwick, Rick Block has decided to take on the obstructionist clerks in court, announcing:
"I am going to challenge this decision. I believe that we will prevail because the Clerks’ actions around the State violate the spirit of the Federal Court Order legalizing same-sex marriages in Florida, but there are additional compelling reasons.
- We spent millions of dollars ensuring that our Courthouse is compliant with the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), and people needing ADA accommodations now have nowhere to go.
- We built our $350 million Courthouse with taxpayer dollars, including revenue from citizens who are gay, citizens requiring the assistance and provisions of the ADA, and most importantly, those who struggle financially.
- This action of shutting down the Wedding Chapel ironically adversely affects more heterosexual couples than gay couples, simply because more heterosexual couples get married. Therefore, ironically, the absurdity of our Clerk’s actions is to discriminate more profoundly against the very people that he actually is claiming to “protect.”
- Additionally, there is a small fee for the use of the Wedding Chapel, and that fee helps to pay the salaries of Courthouse public employees including the very Clerk of the Court who shut down this stream of revenue! The Clerk does not have the right to make such financial decisions on behalf of the City.
Most obviously, the Clerks’ actions violate the spirit of the Federal Court Order protecting same-sex marriages in the state of Florida."
Of course even a lawyer can't just file suit because he sees an injustice happening before his eyes. He has to have "standing" - plaintiffs who have been harmed by the actions of one of the clerks and their arbitrary decision to end weddings at their courthouses. Here's where we can help.
If you know anyone in Florida, gay or straight, who was turned away by one of the protesting clerks, or who would have used the courthouse wedding service had it been available, Rick Block would like to hear their story. So post the request on your Facebook page, and Retweet it on Twitter, email it to everyone you know in Florida. The Florida clerks have had their tantrum. Now it's time to give them a timeout.
You can contact Attorney Rick Block on his cell phone 904-607–8888.
Photo by permission