Love is in the air. It's also at the beach, inside the courthouse and aboard tonight's sunset cruises. And it's foremost on the minds of the frantic, forgetful throngs lined up today inside any shop that sells cards, flowers, chocolates or balloons -- those red and pink Valentine's Day mandates that make women smile, men panic and single people cringe.
"It's been a busy week; always is," said Lou Ann Frevele, the marriage license official in the Monroe County Clerk's office. "They love us down here. It seems that every single person is from the frozen tundra up North, and they're just thrilled to be here."
They'll be "lined up like cordwood," waiting to get married down at Smathers Beach today, Frevele said,
This week each year, the clerk's office is busy processing marriage license requests for couples who want a Valentine's Day wedding. Some of them even tie the knot right in the clerk's office.
"We'll be doing some weddings here," Frevele said, unsure of the number as the office does not take reservations. "As deputy clerks, we're authorized to perform marriages. But if they're Florida residents, then they need to have gotten their marriage license by Tuesday if they want to get married on Valentine's Day."
Florida law requires residents to apply for a marriage license at least three days before getting married.
"Apparently, years ago, the government decided the divorce rate was too high in Florida, so they make residents wait three days in the hope of preventing a marriage that may have been more likely to end in divorce," Frevele said.
"I always say they want to be sure residents have sobered up before getting married," she said.
State officials apparently have no such concerns for tourists and other out-of-state visitors, as the waiting period is waived for them.
"If they don't live in Florida, they can come in, fill out the paperwork and get married right then," she said. "And they do."
But only if one is a man and one is a woman.
There's another group of lovebirds who will be refused a marriage license today, regardless of the waiting period requirements or their state of residency. Some of the couples have waited more than 30 years to marry, but because their partner is of the same gender, they are denied the right to marry in Florida.
"I hate it," Frevele said. "Every year, we get some gay couples coming in on Valentine's Day, and each year I have to deny them a license. I hate it so much."
A peaceful demonstration is planned today at the clerk's office on Whitehead Street, where several same-sex couples will apply for a marriage license, knowing they will be denied.
Instead of a marriage license, gay couples will receive a copy of the Florida law that prohibits same-sex marriage.
"Someday, maybe, I hope," Frevele said.