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22/01/2015

Pasco’s Valentine’s Day wedding ceremony won’t be canceled after all

Both gay and straight couples will be able to tie the knot this year during Pasco County’s traditional Valentine’s Day wedding ceremony at the Historic Courthouse in Dade City.

Clerk Paula O’Neil had initially planned to cancel the ceremony in light of her decision last year to stop offering wedding services, in part because of the court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage. But Circuit Judge Linda Babb offered to serve as the Valentine’s Day officiate.

“I volunteered,” Babb said. “I knew she had been doing it in the past. I had sort of wondered if she was going to do it this year.”

The group wedding at the Historic Pasco County Courthouse in Dade City is a Valentine’s Day tradition.
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Last year O’Neil married 19 couples on the grounds of the courthouse in what has become a Dade City tradition. Even though she isn’t officiating this year, O’Neil said her staff would continue to facilitate and staff the ceremony, which falls this year on a Saturday.

“We’ll do the same things we’ve done in the past,” she said. “We’ll preregister all the couples, and we’ll be talking to businesses to see if we can get someone to donate a cake.”

Pasco County issued marriage licenses to 38 same-sex couples in the first week that gays could legally marry in Florida. O’Neil arranged to have notaries public on standby at both government centers that week to marry couples who were granted a waiver from the state mandated three-day waiting period. Several couples showed up with their own officiates.

Babb said she hasn’t performed a gay wedding since it was legalized in Florida on Jan. 6. “I did do one in (Washington D.C.) last year on Labor Day,” she said. “They were dear friends of mine — they’re like brothers.”

She hasn’t decided whether to perform a mass ceremony, like O’Neil did in the past, or to marry each couple individually. “I’m looking forward to it,” she said. “It should be fun.”

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