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Judge gives Miami same-sex couples a head start on marriage

Gary Jilek, who plans to marry his partner when same-sex marriage becomes legal Tuesday in Florida, said he told his family not to fly down because he was sure there would be a hold-up.

By Frances Burns

MIAMI, Jan. 5 (UPI) -- A Miami judge ruled Monday that same-sex couples in Miami-Dade County can jump the gun, marrying hours earlier than those elsewhere in Florida.

Harvey Ruvin, the Miami-Dade clerk of courts, set 2 p.m. as the starting time after Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel lifted a stay she had placed on her decision that banning same-sex couples from marrying discriminates against them.

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The county will also give legal recognition to couples who have married elsewhere.

Catherine Pareto and Karla Arguello of Coconut Grove, partners for 14 years, came to the courthouse for the hearing prepared for a wedding. Both wore cream-colored dresses.

RELATED Fla. counties stop courthouse weddings to avoid gay ceremonies

"I feel good. I am relieved. I feel vindicated," Pareto told The Miami Herald.

Elsewhere in Florida, clerks are expected to begin issuing licenses to same-sex couples Tuesday. A federal judge in Tallahassee ruled last week that the state's ban on same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution.

Official openness to same-sex marriage varies tremendously around the state. In northern Florida, clerks in at least five counties said last week they will no longer offer the option of courthouse weddings so they and their staffs will not have to perform same-sex ceremonies.

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RELATED U.S. Supreme Court OKs same-sex marriage in Florida

Pam Bondi, the state's Republican attorney general, tried to delay the start of same-sex marriage. The Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops, said it found U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle's ruling "deeply disappointing."

Some couples in central Florida told the Orlando Sentinel they were surprised by the speed of the change in Florida.

"I was saying we'd be in our walkers before it happened in Florida," said Tammie Kaufman, who plans to marry her partner of 10 years, Kimberly Jackson, on Jan. 17.

RELATED Circuit court lifts stay extending Florida's same-sex marriage ban

Gary Jilek and Reno Deschaine are getting married Tuesday, as soon as they are legally able. But Jilek said he told family members not to buy plane tickets because he was convinced there would be a setback. The couple plan to hold their reception later.

One couple, Thomas Lawson and Michael Scott, have managed to put together a big wedding Tuesday, including 150 guests and a cake. Lawson and Scott said once Hinkle made his ruling they put plans already underway on the fast track -- and decided to go ahead even if a court intervention meant they would not yet be legally married.

John Michael Weddings, the planner they enlisted, said the celebration at the Hyatt Regency Orlando may not be the first same-sex wedding in the area but will be the first one with all the trimmings.

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