Broward's gay community smiled today upon hearing the news that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down DOMA. Here is a snapshot of what I heard from gay residents at restaurants and shops in Wilton Manors today -- the heart of the county's openly gay community:
Paul Hogan and Bill Sullivan have been together for more than three decades -- they met while working for U.S. Senators in Washington D.C. (Hogan for Bob Graham and Sullivan for George Mitchell) and ultimately got married on Election Day in Washington D.C. in 2012. They are co-owners of SoBeArt Antiques in Wilton Manors.
"It's unconstitutional! -- Hello-o!" cheered Hogan who threw his hands up in the air and yelled 'Mazel Tov' when I asked for his reaction. "My president made a beautiful statement. ... I'm proud of my president."
The couple hopes that with the backing of the federal mandate that it will lead to the right to get married in Florida.
"I love living here -- as crazy as it is," Hogan said. "I didn't want to have to leave here to get married. Why can't I get married where I live?"
The decision left many couples hopeful that in the future they can share financial benefits the same as married couples. Many have endured the hassles and expense of trying to purchase joint home insurance, health insurance or other benefits.
"I hope we can leave each other our pensions," Hogan said. "That's the main thing - our inheritance and estates."
At Rosie's Bar and Grill, CNN's coverage of the Supreme Court decisions blared in the dining room while staffers decorated with red balloons. (The hangout which has rainbow colored lanterns dangling from the ceiling is known for their sense of humor -- there is a sign declaring "Drama Queen Drive" and a tad of sexual innuendo on the menu.)
"We have so many people here in longterm relationships denied the right to marry," said owner John Zieba. Now they have a chance to have their relationship recognized by the federal government, he said.
Richard Stetler, owner of The Best Wine Cellar, said the decision is "phenomenal." However he expressed doubt that the entire state of Florida would vote to allow gay marriage in the future.
"I don't think Northern Florida is going to allow it," he said.
Lamar Stockman, a Fort Lauderdale retiree who is not married but has a partner, declared Wednesday one of the happiest days of his life.
"I never thought I would see this in my life time," he said while eating lunch at Storks coffee shop. "All my life I have been under the impression this would never be approved."
Gary Rubinstein, a 57-year-old Fort Lauderdale resident, said that he married his partner in September in New York.
"It's awesome -- amazing, the best thing ever," said Rubinstein, while at Starbucks. "I think it is just the tide of what is going to happen nationwide."
Nate Klarfeld, who chairs Broward's steering committee for Equality Florida, has been together with his partner for 10 years and they have three grandchildren between them. (Both had children from previous relationships.)
"I want them to be able to see us as a recognized couple," he said, while at Starbucks.
Klarfeld said he thinks that opinion has changed due to the straight community interacting with openly gay people in everyday settings.
"I don't think it was due to massive education. .. It was over the water cooler, soccer games, seeing us kissing in the lobby, going to work."
I also spoke to Dan Daley, a 23-year-old Coral Springs city commissioner and Republican by phone today. (Daley is a former legislative aide to Democratic state legislator Ari Porth who is now a judge.)
"I think it is terrific," said Daley. "History has been made. Equality shouldn't be a partisan issue."
Daley said he identifies himself as a fiscal conservative and moderate on social issues. He called out the Republican Party for "saying less government, less government, less government unless it is in someone's bedroom. ... The Republican Party needs to come into 2013 and realize some of their positions on issues are falling apart."