BRADENTON -- Wearing Hawaiian leis as they stood outside Manatee County's historic courthouse, Rand Bromley and Ben Hue made good on a promise they made to love, honor and cherish one another for the rest of their lives.
Bromley and Hue were one of more than a half-dozen couples at the courthouse early Tuesday to get a marriage license on the first full day of same-sex marriage being legal in Florida. They were the second same-sex couple to legally marry in Manatee County, tying the knot just before 9 a.m.
Dressed in matching gray suits and wearing the leis to honor Hue's Hawaiian heritage, the two Bradenton men exchanged rings and were pronounced married by officiant Charles Tigard, pastor of the Church of the Trinity.
Surrounded by friends, well-wishers and a small crowd of reporters and photographers, the two were giddy and nervous even after they had taken their vows.
"We were just trying to be here on time," Bromley said.
Same-sex marriage became legal throughout Florida at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday when a federal judge's stay of an injunction nullifying the state's voter-approved marriage ban expired. The first gay marriages in the state were performed Monday in Miami-Dade County, where another court ended another stay early.
Manatee County Clerk Chips Shore quietly joined Miami-Dade when he issued the county's first same-sex marriage certificate to a couple around 4 p.m. Monday. Arlene Rodriguez and Nadia Soletzky of Palmetto got their certificate ahead of time because the gay marriage ban was ruled unconstitutional in August. They were married in the clerk's office by deputy clerk Nikki Monfils.
"When the judge ordered the statute unconstitutional, it no longer existed," Shore told the Herald on Tuesday. "Nothing was stopping us from doing that. We just didn't advertise it."
Monfils, who has performed countless weddings during her five years in the clerk's office, said performing the county's first same-sex ceremony stood out.
"It was definitely different," she said. "It was nice to see them happy, and it was nice to share it with them."
On Tuesday, Bromley's and Hue's wedding was the first of a handful expected to take place at the courthouse. They were among 17 same-sex couples who picked up certificates by the time the clerk's office closed at 4:30 p.m. The clerk's office usually issues about 10 marriage licenses per day.
Gary Maxwell and Daniel Fishback were in line right behind Bromley and Hue. They, too, married at the courthouse Tuesday morning.
"We've waited a long time," said Maxwell, who has been with Fishback for 15 years.
Whether or not same-sex couples applying for marriage licenses were taking vows Tuesday, the level of excitement was the same. Wendey Walker and Jessica Casciola of Bradenton were actually the first couple in line to get their license. The pair, who have been a couple for eight years, stopped by the courthouse before going to work so they could do the one thing they see as the key to more happy events to come. Walker, a registered nurse, and Casciola, an attorney, recently bought a house together and are planning on having children. Legal marriage, they said, will make all of that feel safe and secure.
"We didn't want to get too excited because we see how they give and take," Walker said of the long, seesaw legal battle over gay marriage in Florida.
The couple plans to marry in February at a ceremony to be held at Motorworks Brewery in Bradenton. Casciola's mother, Louise, said she can hardly wait.
"It just feels so right that she gets to be normal today, that she gets to have a marriage and a family," she said.
Other couples at the courthouse were more spur of the moment. Jonathan Wright and Rickey Graves, who have been partners for six years, said they haven't thought as much about getting married as some because they thought Florida might never allow it.
Once it was pronounced legal, they knew they needed to be at the courthouse on the first day to exercise their new marriage rights.
"Coming out as a young man, I never thought this day would come," Wright said. "We just knew we had to be here."
Officiants on hand to perform weddings were also swept up in the events of the day. Tigard, who had previously performed only one other legal same-sex marriage, said he has a half-dozen couples in his congregation who will likely marry in the coming months.
"I'm just elated," he said. "Finally, our country can live up to the values that make us great."
The Manatee County clerk's office had expected a rush of marriage applicants at the start of the day. The office had staff on hand to help most couples through the application process as they came into the office.
"We were well-prepared," Shore said. "Nobody was in a hurry."
Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027, or on Twitter @MattAtBradenton.