Here's an open letter submitted by Gabriel Garcia-Vera, a queer Miami activist who is Florida State Lead for GetEQUAL:
By Gabriel Garcia-Vera
When I showed up 30 minutes early to the courthouse that day I was thinking of you. I had nothing left to lose. And I know that might sound melodramatic but that's how I felt. It's how I feel every time I have to stand up and declare that I am worthy of being considered equal to anybody else.
I was there at the Miami Dade County courts as they heard from the attorneys for six same-sex couples who asked a judge to throw out the state’s same sex marriage ban and order the county clerk to immediately issue marriage licenses that would allow men and women to marry people of the same gender.
When the opposition showed up it was clear they didn’t understand. Or maybe they just didn’t want to acknowledge our humanity and connections. They held up signs saying “marriage is between a man and a woman” and “enough is enough.” They chanted “Respect our vote” and in turn we met hatred with love as we responded back by chanting “Love is Louder.” They continued to chant on and off with long periods of silence in between. One woman came across the line and told us “Jesus doesn’t want this” and “You could change if you wanted to.” I thought about her as we sat through the rain and my voice began to give from all the chanting.
I thought about you a lot in those moments wondering if you were here right now what would you think of me. Would you be ok with the way that I love, would stand by my side and support me? You never got to meet Alex so for all intents and purposes I will always be your youngest nieto. I want you to know that everything you ever said to me in front of that bakery after school when I was little has influenced and shaped me to be the person I am today. Our long conversations about what it meant to be not just a man, but a good man resonates within me every time I look at my family. I know you always told me about how to treat women and I hope you don’t mind that I took that same approach and applied it towards men. I try to never be reckless with their hearts, I always respect them and never lay my hands on them. I love them so hard it feels like I’m running out of air, just like the way loved Abuela.
As a 25 year old, queer, Puerto Rican I think it’s safe to say that these concepts of family and marriage have been part of my understanding of life since birth. Growing up in a tight knit family I often thought about what it would be like to one day have a family of my own. I learned about love and marriage from the people who always seemed to have the best relationship, my Abuelo and Abuela. I watched them be so in synch it’s as if they had never lived one without the other. Sure they fought sometimes like most people do, but they loved each other deeply and it always showed.
That's why I stood and chanted for marriage knowing that marriage is just one way to protect and express love, not the only one, but so important for those who want access to it.
Inside the court room the state attorney didn't mention love, only amendments, constitution, same-sex, voters, the state, decisions, 2008, jurisdiction. It's as if those of us who are advocating for respect and dignity are speaking a completely different language. Like the recent Monroe County decision the Miami-Dade one might only affect one county or might spread to others. For now we languish in the same limbo that other queer people are in if they live in states that have not overturned marriage equality bans can’t help but remember standing outside in the rain feeling the particles of cold air and water mix as they brushed against our faces; my brothers and sisters from GetEQUAL, Equality Florida, the Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project, Save, and Human Rights Campaign standing right next to me.
As the courts weigh their decisions, I can’t help but hope that if you were here you and others like you, part of my big extended Florida family would decide, to stand not just with us but with me and demonstrate that love is louder just like you always taught me.
Gabriel Garcia-Vera has been an advocate since his teens. Now 25, he is the Florida State Lead for GetEQUAL. His work is strongly informed by his Puerto Rican roots and the powerful women in his family. You can see his work on Today I’m Going to Live/ Hoy Voy a Vivir a multilingual video channel on Youtube and on his radio show on Klangbox.fm, LoveBox.