More than 50 couples chorused “I do!” on the Orlando City Hall front steps Jan. 6, the first day same-sex couples could be legally married in Central Florida.
At 9 a.m., pairs of radiant couples marched out of the City Hall front doors, most of them hand in hand, many cheering, celebrating and proudly waving their newly-minted marriage licenses.
Once the couples filed into their seats, Mary Meeks, an LGBT activist and Orlando attorney who was part of one of several legal teams fighting for equality in Florida courts, kicked things off.
“I am so happy to welcome all of you here today, for this historic event celebrating marriage equality in Florida, celebrating the solidarity and the tenacity of this community, and celebrating the love and commitment of these 50 awesome couples,” Meeks told the cheering crowd. “We have all been waiting a long time for this. That wait is now over.”
Meeks introduced Rev Kathy Schmitz of First Unitarian Church, who pointedly said she offers “a joyful, loving spiritual voice,” in contrast to the lone protestor shouting about sin and repentance while the speakers addressed the crowd.
Orlando City Commissioner Patty Sheehan read 1 Corinthians 13:4-9, the Bible passage frequently read at weddings which declares that “Love never fails.”
Sheehan introduced Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer who brought up Orange County Clerk Tiffany Moore Russell.
“I hereby affirm that I have issued these licenses to these couples today and they are valid under Florida law,” Moore Russell said, a declaration met with excited cheers from the crowd.
Mayor Dyer led a brief ceremony wherein the couples affirmed their love for each other, exchanged rings, and sealed their unions with a kiss.
Afterward, there was a reception in City Hall Rotunda where the Orlando Gay Chorus performed, family members hugged and posed for photos with happy couples and caterers passed around wedding cake and champagne.
According to Paul Donnelly, Orange County Clerks office communications specialist, they issued 164 marriage licenses to same-sex couples at the office’s five locations on Jan. 6.
Photos by Jake Stevens.