On January 6th, at midnight, the ban on same sex marriages ended in Florida. At an event called Vowed and Proud, Mayor Buddy Dyer performed a mass wedding for over 40 same sex couples on the steps of city hall. Commissioner Patty Sheehan stepped up to the mic and proudly announced that she was the first openly gay commissioner in the City Beautiful. The crowd cheered. She pointed out that it was a long hard battle to get to this day. This was a day to celebrate love. Some of the couple had been together longer than many heterosexual couples.
I found a view where I could see the mayor and the row of couples waiting to be married. One of Buddy's security guards however considered me a menace with my sketchbook and he told me to move. Sigh, he's just doing his job. I moved much further back to sketch the huge crowd gathered. Originally the ceremony was going to be held in the City Hall rotunda, but the event was too big to be contained inside. The Mayor Told all the couples to face each other and they recited after him, "With this ring, I thee wed." There was a huge cheer from the crowd when the ceremony was complete. The Orlando Gay Chorus then sang, Somewhere Over the Rainbow.
There were two sad and sullen protesters, but their hateful shouts were downed out by the celebration of love. On a radio program on my drive downtown, the protesters were given a microphone to air their views. I turned the radio off. I don't need to hear their hate. They shouted, "Jesus is coming!" "Good" I thought, "Jesus would appreciate this celebration of love." The tides are changing. The brightness of joy outweighed the protests of a few. Florida Family Action filed a lawsuit against Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer in an effort to stop the ceremony, as well as others across the state, reported WKMG in Orlando. The group fought for a gay marriage ban in Florida, which was approved by voters in 2008. That ban was found to be unconstitutional. They clearly did not succeed. Wedding planners, hotels and resorts feel that Orlando could become a wedding destination for same sex couples in the deep south. January 6th was a truly historic moment in Orlando and I'm happy I was there to sketch it.