On My Day of Decision: Waiting for Marriage in the Bible Belt

We asked readers for personal stories about how the U.S. Supreme Court's highly anticipated ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act has consequences for their own lives. R. Zeke Fread says he'll be happy for his friends in other states on the Day of Decision, but he knows more must be done in Florida.

BY R. Zeke Fread

June 05 2013 3:05 AM ET

 R. Zeke Fread 
GLBT communities nationwide anxiously await the U.S. Supreme Court rulings to be announced. We collectively hold out hope that Proposition 8 and section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act will be found unconstitutional. This would certainly be historic and a monumental victory for the GLBT civil rights movement. Marriage equality will be celebrated in GLBT communities nationwide, and especially in California and states that have legalized same-gender marriage.
 
This would indeed be a great victory for marriage equality. However, for gay and lesbian Floridians, it would be a bittersweet victory, one in which we can’t legally share. My partner of 34 years, Nick, 60, and I, 61, want the right to marry along with same-gender couples who were married in other states, but the Supreme Court's rulings will likely change nothing for us. 
 
A ruling finding section 3 of DOMA unconstitutional, not the Defense of Marriage Act itself, would serve only to grant federal benefits to gay couples who were married and live in a state that have legalized same-gender marriage. Florida’s one of the many other states where voters or lawmakers passed constitutional amendments defining marriage as being only between one man and one woman. Since Florida is part of the antigay Bible Belt, it’s not likely that this amendment will ever be overturned by voters or lawmakers with a sudden change of heart. Our absolute only hope is that DOMA in its entirety is found to be unconstitutional. Only then will Florida’s same-gender couples ever see marriage equality.
 
The only legal rights or protections same-gender (and unmarried straight couples) can achieve is if counties or cities adopt a domestic-partnership registry. These registries provide only a handful of basic legal rights and protections for our partners. For example, registries allow the right to hospital visitation and the right to serve as a health care surrogate if our partner is deemed incapacitated. Registered partners can make medical decisions for each other and funeral/burial arrangements, but a registry isn’t even close to providing the 1,138 state and federal benefits, protections and rights afforded to married couples. Sadly, we will remain second-class citizens in our own country.
 
To my gay brothers and sisters in California and the states with legal same-gender marriage: I stand with you in the hope the Supreme Court rules in your favor. I will rejoice and celebrate in this historic victory for and with you. Meanwhile, however, we here in Florida will take to the streets in protest on the Day of Decision in front of our local county courthouse. I will continue to be a visible presence and have my voice heard until equal civil rights for GLBT people, including marriage equality, are the law of the land in every state across the USA.
 
 
R. ZEKE FREAD has been a LGBT rights and antibullying activist for the past 15 years, participating in local, statewide, and national LGBT rights campaigns such as Tampa DPR, Florida Statewide DPRs, No on 2, Stop the Hate, Stop Dr. Laura, National Equality March, Don't Amend, Day of Decision 2009, and Day of Decision 2013, among many others. Zeke and his partner, Nick, will celebrate their 35th anniversary in January. 
 

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