Publisher's note: You've come a long way, Florida

Florida has come a long way from when I moved here in 1989, and so have I. Back then, finding similar friends was limited to gay bars, cruisy areas, and the men-seeking-men section in the back pages of CL. We still have a lot of great gay bars across Tampa Bay, but I’m not really up on the cruisy areas (if they even still exist), and personals have moved to the internet.

In April 1993, I attended my first large-scale gay event, the March on Washington. I traveled with a group of LGBT Tampanians. We connected with other Floridians and with groups from each state. I’m told over a million people attended, although the official estimate from the DC police was slightly lower. The experience was transformative; I realized I was not alone. At the time I wasn’t out to my family, still changing pronouns when talking about the people I was dating. I never really had any plans to come out (just like our state probably didn’t have any plans to allow same-sex marriage). I was getting good at pronoun-changing, or so I thought.

The next year, my Mom outed me. In a nutshell: Mom: “We just aren’t sure about your lifestyle?” Me: “Yeah, I’m gay.” Over the course of the next few weeks I pretty much came out to everyone, thanks to my Mom. It was such a relief being able to share an important part of me with the people I loved. I felt like Sally Field, “They really, really like me!” — and they don’t give a damn if the special someone in my life happens to be the same gender as me.

New mission: Find a lifemate and live happily ever after. That next year, I met Eddie. We’ve enjoyed 20 years of life, love and the pursuit of happiness despite being treated as second-class citizens in the eyes of our government. Since we both hail from large and extended families (combined we share 17 siblings, dozens of aunts and uncles, dozens of nieces and nephews, dozens of cousins, and of course our loving parents), our relatives range across the political and age spectrum. We have nearly unanimous support (with the exception of the odd aunt or uncle) from both of our families.

Over the years, we’ve been asked a million times, when are you two going to get married? I never really expected to have to deliver on my stock answer: “When the good old F-L-O-R-I-D-A, orange-juice-will-make-you-gay, Anita Bryant-, Ronda Storms-, Pam Bondi-loving state overturns its discriminatory marriage license law.” But now that Florida is on the verge of becoming the 35th state to honor marriage to same-gender couples, I have to deliver. Consider Eddie and me formally engaged on 1/6/15 and married at a later date this year.

There are millions of people and hundreds of organizations to thank for getting us to this point, and I am incredibly appreciative of all of you who supported the cause. And for those of you in opposition, I have no ability to understand your motives — if you are against gay marriage, simply don’t marry a gay person.

Please share your story, CL would like to organize a mass wedding as part of our Alternative Wedding Guide in 2015. Anyone interested in participating can contact us at 813-739-4800, or email [email protected]

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