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Same-Sex Marriages Proceed In Leon County

Myles Robertson and Jim Van Riper (seated, L-R) flanked by city and county officials as they register for their marriage license.
Nick Evans

When the Leon County Clerk’s office opened Tuesday morning, it was business as usual—sort of.  The office issued marriage licenses just like it does any other day, but after a federal stay expired overnight, the clerk was able for the first time to offer licenses to same-sex couples.

Among the early-risers at the county clerk’s office, were the entire Tallahassee City Commission, a handful of county commissioners, and even a state representative.  Why all the brass? 

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum says, “well, first and foremost, I say we are here as a city family, standing with one of our own city family members who has come in to get—he and his partner—to get their marriage license.”

That family member is Jim Van Riper.  He works in IT for Tallahassee and he helped launch the digiTally smartphone app earlier this year.  He and his partner Myles Robertson show up in black suits—they’ve got matching red roses pinned to their lapels.  Van Riper appreciates all the support from local officials.

“I do, I do—and that’s why, all these officials are here, these are my bosses, these are the people—they love me.  I love working there, and I’m honored to have them here.”

Van Riper says he and Robertson, who’ve been together for 15 years, have been waiting a very long time for this day.

“This is our third ceremony of such nature,” Van Riper says, “but this one means something—it’s for real.”

After getting the license and posing for photos, Van Riper and Robertson stopped to congratulate another couple, Isabell Potts and Susan Gage, who had just gotten their licenses, too.  As Gage hugs Van Riper she starts to cry.

A moment later, Potts says there’s a sense of camaraderie that makes the moment so special.

“You know the gay community is not huge,” Potts says, “so we know a lot of people, and there’s also something just delightful about coming in here and seeing your friends and people you’ve seen around town and new strangers, and everybody’s so happy. 

“And people are coming in with their mothers to get married, it’s just a big deal,” Potts says.

The chance for these couples to wed came after a federal district court ruling took effect Monday night.  That case is currently awaiting a hearing by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.  Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi says her office is reviewing whether to continue pursuing the case, in hopes of restoring a 2008 ballot initiative defining marriage as one man and one woman.  Whatever she decides, though, Bondi says she wants the U.S. Supreme Court to make a ruling on the issue.

Nick Evans came to Tallahassee to pursue a masters in communications at Florida State University. He graduated in 2014, but not before picking up an internship at WFSU. While he worked on his degree Nick moved from intern, to part-timer, to full-time reporter. Before moving to Tallahassee, Nick lived in and around the San Francisco Bay Area for 15 years. He listens to far too many podcasts and is a die-hard 49ers football fan. When Nick’s not at work he likes to cook, play music and read.