BRADENTON -- Marriage ceremony venues at the historic Manatee County Courthouse await a rush of demand from same-sex couples as legal barriers once prohibiting their unions fell away Monday.
A marriage ceremony room with a frilly arch is handy near where marriage licenses are granted. Couples can also tie the knot outside on the steps of the gracious 1913-era courthouse or beneath its new stately gazebo surrounded by greenery.
"If there's an overflow, my conference room is available," laughed Christine Clyne, director of courthouse employee/public relations, who was lining up extra chairs in anticipation of a crowd.
She predicted a "busy and pleasant day."
There is no way to predict how many same-sex couples will turn up when the marriage license division desk opens at 8:30 a.m., she said.
"It could be 12 or 1,200," Clyne said.
A final legal snag developed late Monday when Florida Family Action Inc., a not-for-profit group, sued R.B. "Chips" Shore, clerk of the circuit court of Manatee County, in an attempt to halt his plans to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples beginning Tuesday.
The complaint sought an emergency request for legal relief from the 12th Circuit Court, but after Shore's office closed at 5 p.m., he received an email with a copy of an order dismissing the action in the complaint, according to Lori D. Tolksdorf, director of courts.
In the suit, the organization said Shore's "official ministerial duties include the duty not to 'issue a license for the marriage of any person ... unless one party is a male and the other party is a female.'"
The organization requested the circuit court issue an order commanding the clerk to perform his ministerial duty "to deny any application for a marriage license by a same-sex couple..."
Shore had said earlier in the day he would not change his plans to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples beginning Tuesday unless a judge stepped in and overruled a previous order.
Steve Warren and Dan Smith, together 26 years, said they planned to apply for a marriage license at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday. They said they expect to be married within a couple of weeks at the Church of the Trinity Metropolitan Community Church, 7225 Lockwood Ridge Road, said Warren.
Warren, 72, is an actor and writer, and his fiance, Smith, 64, is a retired nurse. They are from Manatee County.
"I feel good about it," said Warren Monday. "It's about time."
He was not surprised at the last-minute legal wrangling, he said.
"I figured somebody would try something. They never give up. They're still sticking to the 'will of the people,' even though a lot of the people have moved on," he said.
Those seeking marriage licenses at the Manatee County Courthouse should know:
Hours are 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. weekdays.
Couples may take a four-hour premarital preparation course or wait three days before the marriage license goes into effect.
Marriage licenses cost $93.50 if no premarital preparation course is taken, and $61 if one is taken.
The cost for performing a ceremony at the clerk's office is $30.
The couple must sign a statement indicating they have read the "Family Law handbook" or "Manual de Derecho Familiar."
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.