Last August, U. S. District Judge Robert Hinkle declared Florida's same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional. Citing the 14th Amendment's due process and equal protection clauses, Hinkle wrote unequivocally that, "Marriage is a fundamental right." After a lengthy stay, his ruling went into effect January 6, making Florida the 36th state to embrace same-sex marriage.
As a fourth-generation Floridian, I am ecstatic for my home state where, as a child, I was as likely to see a gay couple as a snowman. Already, more than a 1,000 couples have been married in the nation's third most populous state, with hundreds more renewing their vows from previous out-of-state weddings.
The Kiss for Equality campaign documents couples proclaiming their love publicly as a clarion call for LGBTQ equality worldwide and shares these photos of Floridian newlyweds celebrating the freedom to marry in the Sunshine State.
Have a kiss? Submit your own kiss for equality at KissForEquality.net.
Naiomy Cardona Arrington and Liz Burgos
Kirk Edward and Kevin Rew
Kirk and Kevin were married at Smathers Beach, in Key West, Fla., on January 24. Three years ago they met at a bar and exchanged numbers. They were married one day after the third anniversary of their first date.
Photo credit: Nick Doll Photography
Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones
After being denied a marriage license in their hometown of Key West in the spring of 2014, Aaron and Lee filed a lawsuit against clerk and comptroller Amy Heavilin, becoming plaintiffs in one of Florida's first marriage equality cases (Huntsman v. Heavilin). They were married in Key West just after the stroke of midnight on January 6, in the first same-sex wedding in the Florida Keys.
Photo credit: Nick Doll Photography
Naiomy and Liz live in Tampa with their three children. Friends since high school, they became a couple in 2011, after Liz hosted an event at a local gay club. "After a really fun night, we just starting hanging out," writes Naiomy. "We had a deep connection. I had never been with a woman and never expected it, but I fell in love with her. Being with Liz finally made me understand that love isn't about a type or what you think you're looking for. It's finding your other half and being open to it."Photo credit: Naiomy Cardona ArringtonRene and Frederick Cotto-Lewis
Rene and Frederick were one of the first couples to marry at the courthouse in Orlando on January 6. Together nearly fouryears, they met in recovery. "Both of us live our lives as examples of the possibilities that are available to us all," writes Rene. "We were both homeless at one point and decided to change our lives by going into treatment at the Center for Drug-Free Living. We are both HIV-positive, and try to give a voice to those who are not comfortable speaking up because of stigma. We work in the field of HIV, and do our best to show [others] to never give up. We are filled with gratitude because today, what we once thought of as impossible, is now possible: love, recovery, and health. We hope that we inspire others to live their truth, and never doubt what can be accomplished."Photo credit: Rene Cotto-LewisKimmy and Barbie Denny
Kimmy and Barbie Denny live in Tampa, and have been together almost 10 years. They are dedicated advocates for marriage equality, well-known in their community. "We have fought so very hard to have marriage equality in our beautiful state of Florida," writes Kimmy. The couple was married Tampa's Chillura Courthouse Square Park as soon as marriage equality arrived in Florida on January 6. Photo credit: Kimmy Denny
Nicole and Andrea LaingJason John and Jason Mobley
Nicole and Andie, of Wellington, met through an online dating site. "We were both so nervous on our first date, one's hands were shaking and the other one was nauseous!" writes Andie. "I've never thought of myself as buying into cultural expectations, but marriage equality to me feels like acceptance. No one can tell us we are second-class. We are so happy to have this opportunity to live our lives out together. It is a gift that we both recognize is too precious to waste."
Photo credit: Thompson Photography Group
Jason and Jason live in Jacksonville. They have been together for 14 years, and are raising a child with special needs. "I've had my son now for 19 years," writes Jason John. "I tried to do what society said was proper even though I knew I was just fooling myself. Austen was born with a chromosome disorder called Prader-Willi Syndrome. His mom didn't stay with us past his first year. Jason, my soul-completer chose to climb aboard and take this ride with us, and I must say, that took some nerve. Equality only seems proper to me. One shouldn't judge. I'm quite a simple person. And if I can get it, so should most in this world."Photo credit: Jason JohnDavid Rule and Christopher Clawson-Rule
David and Christopher, of Madeira Beach, have been married for a year and a half. "We were married in Delaware in the back garden of the bed and breakfast we were managing," writes David. "We invited about 40 friends for a 'garden party,' and midway through the afternoon, we gathered everyone to witness our marriage! Everyone was surprised and very glad they made the party." When the couple moved to Florida, they sacrificed legal standing as a married couple -- but now their marriage is recognized by Florida and they are equal again in the eyes of the law.Photo credit: David RuleCristina and Molly Adams
Cristina and Molly, of Zephyrhills, were married January 23. "We have two beautiful boys from my previous marriage," says Crisitina, "but within the next year plan to start our own family. I married my best friend and soulmate. We have overcome struggles most people have never known. Love
conquers all. If all human beings would realize that this world would see less suffering and be a more beautiful place. Marriage equality is a step in the right direction."Photo credit: Mrs. Cristina Adams and Mrs. Molly AdamsAndis Tamayo and Renato Markus Silva
When Andis and Renato, of Fort Lauderdale, met at the gym almost four years ago, "it was love at first sight," says Andis. "I am from Cuba and came here in a boat in 1991. Renato is from Brazil and came to the US in 1999. We got married on January 24, 2014 [in Washington, D.C.]. Being married to us means that we get to make our love official to the world. For us, it is a dream come true."Photo credit: Andis Tamayo