KEY WEST (CBSMiami/FKNB) – Two Key West men whose lawsuit helped pave the way for marriage equality in Florida said “I Do” during the Florida Keys’ first legal same-sex wedding early Tuesday.
Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones signed and received their marriage license — the first ever issued to a same-sex couple in the Keys — just after midnight at Key West’s Monroe County Courthouse.
Wearing matching black tuxes and electric blue vests, facing each other and holding hands on the courthouse steps, they were wed in a simple yet moving ceremony before about 500 enthusiastic spectators.
After Huntsman and Lee spoke their vows and exchanged handmade silver rings, Rev. Steve Torrence pronounced them legally married. The crowd erupted in cheers and applause as the new spouses embraced and kissed.
“It’s official — we’re married!” said Huntsman after the ceremony. “We’ve been wanting this and hoping for this for such a long time. We felt in our hearts that we had been married since our first year together, and now it’s real — in Florida!”
“I’m glad it’s done, it’s finally legal and everyone can have the equal rights they deserve,” said Jones.
They weren’t alone, two more couples tied the knot right after them.
Already one of the country’s more popular areas for commitment ceremony’s for gay couples, wedding planners see huge potential for same sex weddings in Key West.
“Since January 5th or so, our phone’s been ringing off the hook, emails are flying in and actual onsite visits are occuring quite frequently from people who are vacationing here who realize they can get married here now,” said Dave Gonzalez with the Hemingway House.
Know for its six toed cats, lush gardens and literary history, the Hemingway House has already seen increased interest from couples who want to exchange vows here.
“We get queries from all over the world, England, the Chicago area, New York, San Francisco and the Miami area in Florida,” said Gonzales.
Local shops that create that magical moment are expecting more business too.
Wedding planners said couples are attracted to Key West because of it’s tropical climate, romantic vibe and now, the ability for anyone who’s in love to marry.
“Wedding couples they tend to want to write their own vows and what better place to do it than at a writer’s home and museum,” said Gonzales.
In July 2014, in response to the couple’s lawsuit protesting Florida’s 2008 ban on same-sex marriage, Florida Keys Judge Luis Garcia issued a landmark ruling stating the ban was discriminatory and unconstitutional.
But a state appeal derailed wedding plans until U.S. Judge Robert Hinkle ruled that Florida’s county court clerks could issue licenses to same-sex couples beginning at midnight Monday.
“I’m elated, overjoyed, that I finally am legally recognized with the man that I’ve loved for 12 years now,” said an emotional Jones.
The county clerk’s office in Key West opened at 11:30 p.m. Monday night and, just after midnight, issued nine other marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
“Key West has been at the forefront in LGBT issues since the 80s and this is just historical,” said Huntsman. “We couldn’t have done it without the support of the community.”
Huntsman and Jones’ ceremony was the first in the county and in the Florida Keys–and several others followed.
Michael Roth and Neil, a couple for three decades, also said ‘I do’ Tuesday morning in the Keys.
“It is like 31 years of waiting, anticipation and validation of our life together, raising a son, grandchildren, a daughter-in-law,” said Michael Roth.
Henry and Derek also tied the knot Tuesday—they both never thought they’d see this moment.
“I really honestly can’t believe that everything is happening right now to be honest. I’m very excited, feel very blessed and excited,” Derek said.
The Florida Keys News Bureau contributed to this report.
[display-posts category=”news” wrapper=”ul” posts_per_page=”5″]