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First Coast Connect: Clerk Candidate Wants Court House Marriages Back

Democrat Paula Bartlett, running against Ronnie Fussell in the Clerk of Courts race, discussed why she wanted court house weddings reinstated on Thursday’s First Coast Connect.

Bartlett said Fussell is holding the entire community hostage to his own discriminatory agenda and she disagrees with Fussell’s decision last year to end weddings at the court house for any couple.

“We still have an elected official who is supposed to be a trustee of the people in this country who is refusing to perform a service because he doesn’t want to perform a service for a certain group of people,” she said.

When the Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality last year, Fussell told the Times-Union that he believes marriage is between a man and woman and that it would go against his beliefs to perform a ceremony other than that.

Bartlett added, “It’s beyond me why when the Supreme Court has just handed this county a brand new customer base. Why would you cut if off?”

The people of Jacksonville, with in The Better Jacksonville Plan, designed the courthouse with what Bartlett said is a community mandate to provide marriages.

“You and I are paying for a dormant room in the court house that is not being used for the purpose it was designed,” she said.

By stopping court house marriages, Bartlett projects the city of Jacksonville is missing out on $75,000-$100,000 annually.

With restoring marriage ceremonies at the courthouse headlining as her main mission as Clerk of Court, Bartlett also pointed out there are other aspects she would like to address.

“There are internal difficulties with accounting, fees that are not being collected, the website is not user friendly, and there is an overall customer service issue. … The Clerk of Court is the access point for the community so it must be manageable and accessible,” she said.

Bartlett said her her 11 years as an attorney will make her a better fit for the position because she understands the importance of the legal process and documentation as well as maintaining records and the distributing money.

In terms of fundraising, Fussell is up to about $75,000 while Bartlett has reached up to $10,000.

“Fundraising is the name of the game,” Bartlett said. “As distasteful as it may seem, it is an investment in the kind of government you wish to have in your city.”

She said she views Fussell as a political insider, which has helped him in the race thus far.

“This is not someone that sent out a resume and said ‘hire me’. This is someone who had political connections. I am a political outsider, and while I am a registered Democrat I am not controlled or beholden to an apparatus,” she said.

Bartlett will be going against Fussell on the ballot during the November election.