One of Florida’s most prominent LGBTQ leaders got engaged on the stage at Orlando Pride this weekend. State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, a Democrat from Orlando, was surprised by longtime partner Jerick Mediavilla at the Saturday evening Pride Rally.
“I couldn’t be happier to have the freedom to marry the man of my dreams,” Guillermo Smith said.
Apparently, Mediavilla had been planning to pop the question for about six months, revealed Ida Eskamani, Smith’s chief of staff. She said conversations had been going on with Come Out With Pride organizers since last June.
Mediavilla said sharing the moment at Orlando Pride made it even more special because the community is the first where he’s felt fully accepted. "From the beginning, people here celebrate diversity even undergoing adversity, and for the first time in my now 37 years, I feel free to love openly and have an entire city celebrate that love I grew up hiding to avoid offending people," he said. "So I wanted to share this with Orlando, out of gratitude showing me how to finally love unconditionally."
That video shows Mediavilla onstage joking about Saturday being his birthday.
“You know what you do on birthdays, right?” he said. “You eat cake. You celebrate and you ask for your gift.”
Mediavilla then hands his microphone to Orlando City Commissioner Patty Sheehan and gets down on one knee. A jubilant Guillermo Smith grabs Mediavilla before the couple embraces and kisses onstage.
Guillermo Smith’s answer?
— Rep. Carlos G Smith (@CarlosGSmith) October 14, 2018
The romantic moment took place onstage at the Walt Disney Amphitheater, a structure painted in rainbow in honor of the victims of the Pulse shooting in 2016.
"I spent my whole life being told I wasn’t allowed to marry. That my love would not be recognized and was something to be ashamed of,” Guillermo Smith told The Advocate. “Finally having the freedom to marry the man of my dreams and have our love celebrated by so many sends a powerful message to LGBTQ yout—you can grow up to be exactly who they want to be, be happy, and maybe even run for public office someday.”
Guillermo Smith, of course, may be best known outside of Florida as one of the most prominent advocates for survivors of the Pulse tragedy and a supporter of families of those killed.
He first won election to the House in 2016, months after the attack. As Florida’s first gay Latino lawmaker, and one representing the Orlando area, he regularly has invoked the memory of the 49 innocent victims slain at the gay nightclub on Latin Night, whether pushing for an assault weapons ban in a pro-gun state or fighting for antidiscrimination protections for LGBTQ workers.
Notably, Mediavilla wore a shirt with the number “49” emblazoned on the back in the colors of the Rainbow Flag.
The lawmaker previously worked as legislative director for Equality Florida, including at the time of the landmark Obergefell ruling that made marriage equality the law of the land.