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Jennifer Royael, left, and Cassondra Rogers were married Tuesday in front of the Duval County Courthouse.
Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Jan. 7, 201512:00 PM EST

'Now I can call her my wife,' newlywed says after marriage

Same-sex ceremonies draw critics with Bibles
by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

Florida’s first same-sex marriages were performed Monday afternoon in Miami, but that didn’t stop couples from arriving at the Duval County Courthouse before 8 a.m. Tuesday to apply for licenses.

After their licenses were issued, some couples waited only minutes before reciting their vows on the courthouse steps.

Licensed wedding officiant Rachel McMurray set up in front of the courthouse to perform ceremonies free of charge for anyone with a valid marriage license. She performs more than 120 ceremonies each year for gay and straight couples.

“It’s my first time on the courthouse steps,” she said. “It’s a historic day in Florida and in Duval County. I’m a longtime human rights advocate and I wanted to be part of it.”

One of the couples McMurray married Tuesday was Cassondra Rogers, 41, and Jennifer Royael, 38. They met 11 years ago and had a commitment ceremony in 2007 on a beach in Clearwater.

Making it legal gave their relationship a new meaning.

“It was important for us to be here on the first day,” said Rogers. “We have been partners for a long time, but now I can call her my wife.”

On the other side of the gay marriage issue, the Rev. Ken Adkins stood nearby during the ceremony holding his Bible. He was there not to protest, but to create a presence as a pastor, he said.

Adkins agreed it was a historic day.

“I never thought I would see this day in Florida,” he said. “I’m not mad at anybody. I’m not homophobic and I’m not anti-gay, but I do represent the Bible.”

McMurray planned to remain on duty on the steps and waive her usual $200 fee as long as couples wanted to get married.

“Making people happy — you can’t ask for more,” she said.

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