Florida same-sex couples allowed to wed

Celebrations abounded across Orlando following the end of a 38-year ban on same-sex marriage in Florida.

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Celebrations abounded across Orlando following the end of a 38-year ban on same-sex marriage in Florida.

At City Hall on Tuesday, Mayor Buddy Dyer officiated a large-scale wedding ceremony for 44 same-sex couples before a crowd of more than 200 people.

"You're a part of history today," said Dyer to the assembled crowd.

In a smaller ceremony at The Center, an LGBT community center, more than a dozen couples gathered before a rainbow-flag mural to recite their vows and begin their lives as newlyweds, despite the fact that many pairs had been together for more than a decade.

"I think the events all day today have been amazing," said city commissioner Patty Sheehan, a UCF alumna. "I've been doing this for over 25 years and to see this actually happen in my lifetime, marriage equality, to see all these couples making this commitment — it was over a hundred just today — it's an exciting time.

"It's not like it used to be: We used to be outnumbered by the Klu Klux Klan people that used to show up 25 years ago. It's been a marvelous transition to see over the years. It was so incredible to see my mayor, our government, recognizing these marriages."

While domestic partnerships have been recognized on a county-by-county basis throughout the state, a 2008 constitutional amendment banned both civil unions and same-sex marriages. On Aug. 21, district court judge Robert Lewis Hinkle overturned both Florida's 1977 statutory marriage ban and the later constitutional amendment, according to court documents.

A stay on Judge Hinkle's ruling following appeals by the state was denied by the U.S. Supreme Court in December 2014, paving the way for the amendment's final repeal Tuesday morning.

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"To finally have our relationship be legally recognized is something we've been waiting for for a long time," said Jeff Grainger, a 2000 UCF advertising and public relations alumnus, who was married to his spouse Keith Yahn, a 1997 UCF secondary education-social science alumnus, early Tuesday morning. "The first couple of considerations are practical ones, in that I'm going to be able to put him on my insurance now, we're going to be able to file our taxes jointly, stuff every other married couple can do. They say there's over a thousand additional rights that married couples have that other couples don't; I'm looking to explore them all."

Not all people were pleased by the state's recognition of same-sex marriage: Several protesters were present at City Hall and The Center during the marriage ceremonies to voice their displeasure with the final repeal of Amendment 2.

Related: UCF named to top-50 most LGBT-friendly schools in nation

"We came out to give a witness to the truth that marriage is between a man and a woman, no matter what the courts say or what legislators say and no matter what even the people say," said John Norris, who was joined by his brother to protest outside of The Center. "Truth is truth, right is right, morality is morality and wrong is wrong: This is a public display of an acceptance of something contrary to nature."

Although Florida has become the 36th state to recognize same-sex marriage, the constitutionality of same-sex marriage bans has yet to be ruled on at the federal level. Each state is currently allowed to decide their own marriage laws, meaning same-sex couples married in one state may find their marriage invalid in the remaining 14 states that do not recognize same-sex unions.

On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether to hear cases from several states in which same-sex marriage is banned, potentially setting a national precedent on marriage equality.a has become the 36th state to recognize same-sex marriage, the constitutionality of same-sex marriage bans has yet to be ruled on at the federal level. Each state is currently allowed to decide their own marriage laws, meaning same-sex couples married in one state may find their marriage invalid in the remaining 14 states that do not recognize same-sex unions.

"Although this is a huge victory, the work isn't done," said Chelsea Daley, a senior political science major and president of the UCF College Democrats. "Other counties in Florida are trying to stop gay marriage, so we all need to try and do our best to move things forward.

"This is a great victory, but it's not over yet."

Related: UCF students tell all about their transgender identities

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Bernard Wilchusky is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @facilesweater or email him at BernardW@CentralFloridaFuture.com.

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