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On the 10th anniversary of the day they met, Joel Alfaro and Yusela Machado Silvente were dressed up and ready to become husband and wife when they visited the Duval County Clerk of Circuit Court’s office in October 2021, called again in August 2022, to receive their marriage license.

To the couple’s dismay, the Duval County Clerk of Circuit Court’s office denied Joel and Yusela, who are both deaf, their marriage license because they didn’t bring a sign language interpreter with them to the clerk’s office. This is a clear violation of their rights, specifically the Americans with Disabilities Act.

As disappointed as they were to be turned away on their special day, the couple’s sadness only deepened when they ran into complications while making many attempts to figure out what they actually needed to do before they could say ‘I do.’

A year later, the Clerk of Circuit Court in Duval County still hasn’t issued the couple a marriage license, so Joel and Yusela have yet to get married.

Joel and Yusela have now filed a lawsuit against the Circuit Court of Duval County and Clerk of Circuit Court Jody Phillips in an effort to ensure that other deaf couples do not endure the same unnecessary challenges that they have.

The couple is represented by John Phillips of Phillips & Hunt, Mary C. Vargas and Michael S. Stein of Stein & Vargas, LLP and Marc Charmatz of the National Association of the Deaf.

The couple and attorney John Phillips of Phillips & Hunt will address the media today at 11 a.m. at Phillips’ law offices, 212 N. Laura Street, 4th floor, Jacksonville, 32202.

A copy of the complaint, which was filed today in Duval County, can be viewed at: www.nad.org/2022/10/04/deaf-couple-turned-away-when-seeking-marriage-license-announce-lawsuit.

Media contacts:

Lizzie Bloom
National Association of the Deaf
lizzie.bloom@nad.org

Ryan Julison
Phillips & Hunt
321-377-6877

Mary Vargas
Stein & Vargas
240-793-3185
mary.vargas@steinvargas.com

[VIDEO DESC & TRANSCRIPT: Howard A. Rosenblum is standing in the front of the black backdrop.

HOWARD: In this country, everyone should have the right to marry. Yet some people face barriers, uncertainty, and denial of this right. Including deaf people! A deaf couple, Joel Alfaro and Yusela Machado Silvente, went to the Duval County Clerk of Circuit Court in Florida to pick up their marriage license. They went on October 17, 2021, which was the 10th anniversary of the day they met. The Clerk refused to give them a marriage license because they did not bring their own interpreter! The ADA is very clear — state and local courts must provide sign language interpreters at no cost to deaf people who need court services, including marriage licenses. The Duval County Court Clerk refused to provide them a sign language interpreter. Now almost a year later, Joel and Yusela still do not have a marriage license from the Duval County Court Clerk, who still refuses to provide an interpreter. As a result, Joel and Yusela have not been able to get married. This is wrong. The NAD and two law firms – Stein & Vargas and Phillips & Hunt are suing Duval County Clerk of Circuit Court to provide an interpreter and make it possible for Joel and Yusela to get married. The right to marry is sacred and important for everyone.]

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