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'Come on SCOTUS, do the decent thing': Gay couple plan New York wedding, ceremony in Miami

Here is an essay about marriage equality written by Rich Denis, a Miami Herald advertising executive:

BY RICH DENIS

On April 28, 2012, after 8 years of putting up with me and just days before what could have been a traumatic 40th birthday, the love of my life asked me to marry him. From the beginning the plan had been to marry in New York (where it was legal) and then have a ceremony here in Miami (where it wasn't) and continue to live in Miami, even though our marriage would not be recognized. Joey and I would be considered "roommates" in the eyes of the law, and our partnership would not-legally-entitle us to hospital visits, or any of the other thousands of benefits afforded to married couples.

And so, on the eve of the Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage, our determination to solidify and deepen our personal commitment to each other (like that of thousands of other same-sex couples) hinges on nine men and women who do not face the same quandary (that we know of) with respect to the loves of their lives.

If you would have told me 9 years ago that the guy with the Brooklyn accent and the most amazing energy on the planet would have become the person with whom I was share to my life, I would have told you that you were nuts. There was no way I would have felt deserving of that back then. And yet not long after Joey and I started dating it became clear to me that our love was the most natural connection I had ever felt. I see now that that love has also been, quite simply, the most precious gift God has given me.

Couples like Joey and I do not want to redefine marriage, we simply want a place at the table. In fact, we respect and are in awe of long-lasting marriages that have weathered difficulties and grown stronger throughout time and cannot help but be inspired by such stubborn and enduring commitments to love. We are alternatively driven by nostalgia when we see the young couple falling in love and sappy when we see the elderly couples who are still together after so many years. It is in those very moments that we pledge our commitment to take care of each other when we reach that age. "I'm looking forward to taking care of you," he'll say, but I know-deep down-that it is I who am thrilled (and lucky) that it is he I get to grow old with.

We also know and remain committed to taking care of each other if the proverbial God-forbid situation were to happen (and one of us would have to take care of the other before we became elderly). But here's where it gets tricky: because our relationship is not recognized (because it is not deemed worthy of the recognition of marriage) Joey or I could be denied that right by the state. We could face difficulties procuring certain hospital visits and the right to make certain medical decisions for the other. We would not be entitled to take medical leave to care for each other. If one of us was to die, we would be denied bereavement leave, survivor benefits and could not inherit a shared home, assets, or personal items. The law would not recognize our commitment.

And so it is, that the recognition of our commitment rests with high courts, low courts, state legislatures and even voters. It was, in fact, a majority of voters in Florida determined in 2008 that couples like Joey and I should not have our commitment recognized as a marriage. I do respect every human being's personal convictions and beliefs. I know that in 5 short years, many of those same voters have come to change their minds, as they come to know people (and couples) like Joey and I. I know that many who still do not deem relationships like ours worthy of marriage struggle with that decision and are gradually coming to see that people (and couples) like Joey and I, not only do not pose a threat, but are actually kind of cool and fun to hang around with (one taste of Joey's famous margaritas has, I'm sure, swayed a mind or two on whether the guy should be able to marry me).

For our part, Joey and I can tell you that we want to see traditional marriages succeed and multiply-we even want to be one of them! We want to enjoy the same protections in our own commitment, that our parents enjoyed and have enjoyed in their respective 40 plus year marriages. We have not, that we know of, ruined or destroyed any heterosexual marriages. Heck, we've even walked some of their weddings, and attended and blessed many others throughout the years. Joey has even accidentally caught a bouquet! This last fact alone should be a good omen, right?

And yet sadly, regardless of how the Supreme Court rules, the state of Florida is still saddled with an amendment to the state constitution (from 2008) that would not recognize our commitment. Efforts are underway to bring the repealing of that amendment up for a vote in November 2014. Couples like Joey and I, who so desperately want to clean up after each other when we are advanced in years, need your support (by way of your vote) in repealing that amendment when the time comes. Joey would even make you margaritas for life if you helped get us hitched in the eyes of the law!

But of course, irrespective of what the Supreme Court decides, life will indeed go on, and the plan remains for Joey and I to marry in May 2014 on our 10th anniversary (whether it is in New York or Miami remains to be seen). We'll still want to grow old together; we'll still probably fight over what to watch on TV; we'll still fight over who has to take the dog out; and we'll still encourage and support each other's abilities and capacities to do better in this life and be the best individuals we can be. (I still rely on him to beat this notion into me sometimes).

We also sincerely believe that most Americans want to do the right thing when it comes to allowing couples, like Joey and me, the right to have our commitments recognized as valid in the eyes of the law. We hope that the rulings are also the right and decent thing for so many thousands of couples whose recognition of their commitments hang in the balance. We sincerely hope that this country (our country) honors its commitment as "the land of the free" where the rights to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" can belong to all couples who choose to have their commitments to each other recognized and protected by the law.

The right to be with the love of your life and pledge to be joined to that person "for better or for worse" is one of the most personal and important decisions you can make in your life. To deny that fundamental right, to deny the validity of that commitment between two consenting adults, establishes this country as one whose laws are subject to the whims of ignorance and fear. It also erodes freedom and the very principles this country was founded on. It accomplishes no good for anyone and creates obstacles and hardship to the lives of so many same-sex couples and their families. The time is now to begin to correct this course and to dismantle laws that prevent so many Americans from living the American dream; a notion that is vital to the life of our country.

Joey and I hope to pledge our commitment in front of our dearest friends and family next May and it is our wish that this wedding (all I care about is the cake really...) will also be replicated by thousands of other same-sex couples across all of the 50 states. We hope we won't break the bank too much and we hope to have enough for a honeymoon somewhere on some river cruise. But we also hope, perhaps more than anything, that it will also be legal. Come on SCOTUS, do the decent thing.

Comments

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CONGRATS Joey and Rich.

As partners for 34 years here im Miami we understand fully how you feel. We have celebrated many years with the Legacy Couples in Miami Beach and Luminary Couples in Wilton Manors. We have many friends in these groups and at least two couples together more tha 50 years. Hopefully SCOTUS gets it right. WE R =

I love your statement- "we do not want to redefine marriage,we just want a place at the table"
That really puts it in perspective for me and I hope for other straights "on the fence"
best of luck to you and the love of your life.I do have many gay friends who are married.

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