Year later, same-sex marriages go from extraordinary to ordinary
By Dan Sweeney
The first LGBT couples to get married in the state are celebrating their first anniversaries.
Same-sex marriage became legal in Miami-Dade County on January 5, with the rest of the state following on January 6.
In the last year, they've had children, bought homes and in many cases, been surprised that something so extraordinary can lead to a life so ordinary. And where else to begin a look back at Florida's first year of same-sex marriage than with the first couple married in the state?
Cathy Pareto and Karla Arguello
"It's been a banner year for us," said Cathy Pareto, who married Karla Arguello just after noon Jan. 5 in a Miami-Dade courtroom. "Since we got married, we had a big church wedding, which was really special. And in August, we welcomed our twins, who are now four months old."
Pareto and Arguello spent months in the spotlight as one of six couples involved in a lawsuit in Miami-Dade County to overturn the state's gay marriage ban. But few knew Arguello was expecting.
"When the whole court case took place, we were pregnant — very, very quietly pregnant," Pareto said.
In a state as large as Florida, it normally would be difficult to pick out which couple were married first after the ban against gay marriage fell. But Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel lifted the ban a day earlier than the rest of the state. And immediately after her decision, she presided over Pareto and Arguello's wedding.
The big church wedding came a few months later, giving friends and family the opportunity to share the moment.
"We've been together 16 years," Pareto said. "We felt married already, but something definitely shifted when things became legal for us. There was something very reassuring about being recognized as a family unit."
Todd and Jeff Delmay
"When you participate in something as historic as we did, you really get excited about the idea that one or two voices can make a difference," said Todd Delmay. He and his partner Jeff Delmay followed Pareto and Arguello in getting married the day the ban fell in Miami-Dade County, which makes them the first gay men married in the state.
The Hollywood residents later attended last year's State of the Union speech at the invitation of U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston.But since then, Todd reports feeling eerily normal.
"We had an experience with a bank recently. We went to open a new account at the bank, and when I said, 'This is my husband,' the banker never batted an eye," Delmay said. "When you fight for equality, you get this very mundane everyday experience and you have to remind yourself that it's an extraordinary experience that made it happen."
After the impulse wedding last year, the Delmays are finally having a reception with friends and family this Jan. 16, just in time to celebrate their anniversary.
"We wanted to set an example for our son. He's sort of understanding it now that we're married and having this celebration," Delmay said. "It's an exciting time, with our lives changing and business growing. We're just like everybody else now."
Vanessa and Melanie Alenier
For Vanessa and Melanie Alenier, that sense of "What's next?" that haunts Todd Delmay hangs even heavier in the air.
Prior to being part of the Miami-Dade gay marriage lawsuit with Pareto and Arguello, the Aleniers were plaintiffs in one of two lawsuits fighting Florida's gay adoption ban. Between trying to adopt their son and trying to get married, the Hollywood couple have spent about half of their 10 years together litigating.
"It's great not to be in the spotlight," Vanessa said. "For the first three to six months, when I would say 'wife,' I'd be like, 'whoa.'"
For their one-year anniversary, the Aleniers plan to go to dinner. They've saved a slice of wedding cake to eat. Their wedding album finally arrived after a long delay. And they have all the usual hoops to jump through that come with getting married.
"Once we got married, I was able to go on [Vanessa's] company insurance policy," Melanie said.
"When they call me and ask about benefits they're also asking about my wife," Vanessa said. "There's this warm, incredible feeling when the insurance company says, 'And your wife, Melanie Alenier, anything to change about her?'"
"For us, it was so exciting to be able to go on insurance," Melanie said.
Irene and Dana Murphy
While the Delmays and the Aleniers had changed their names before the ban on same-sex marriage ending, it was only after they got married that Irene Kalinowski became Irene Murphy. The two had had a marriage ceremony in 2008, one not recognized by the state, but they recoiled at the idea of getting married in another state only to have their marriage ignored in their home state.
When they came to a courthouse in Delray Beach on Jan. 6, they had planned to have a friend who is a notary marry them. They'd just get the marriage license and be on their way.
"We just kind of got caught up in the celebration. It didn't seem right to wait at that point," Irene Murphy said. "We've been together 16 years, we've been married since 2008, so Florida's very late to our party. However, we're very glad they showed up."
The Jupiter couple intend to keep celebrating their anniversary on Oct. 11, the date of their unrecognized 2008 marriage ceremony, which took place in Florida. But they have more cause to celebrate.
"We just purchased a home together," Murphy said. "On one of the forms my title agent sent to me, it asks for husband and wife. So, I took the opportunity to share with her that the form was outdated and needed to be updated and she happily complied. So I feel like we got to make a little bit of a change for other couples purchasing a home, at least with that title agent."
The marriage has also meant that all the complicated paperwork that she and Dana Murphy had to have previously — the health care proxy, the power of attorney — is a thing of the past.
"Now, I don't have to worry about whether or not our relationship is going to be recognized legally," Murphy said. "I've been able to update all my medical records to reflect that I'm married and I can't tell you how refreshing it is to fill out any form since Jan. 6 and check the correct box."