Broward News

VIDEO: For South Florida's Gay Couples, the Right to Marry Is Long Overdue

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In Florida especially, the fight toward marriage equality was particularly tedious -- a dense legal tug-of-war that left many same-sex couples consistently confused and unsure of their futures. Almost each week, a new headline would pop up declaring same-sex marriage all but inevitable. The following week, another would call it dead on the steps of Pam Bondi's office. Even now that same-sex marriages are happening across the state, there still remains the possibility of an appeals court derailing the whole thing.

It's been, in a word, frustrating.

But there was no frustration in the Sunshine Cathedral this past Saturday, January 3, when three same-sex couples spent the morning in a premarital course led by Robert Griffin, the executive minister. The mood was light and hopeful inside the church. The couples sat in a semicircle on the front pew, discussing love and faith, telling stories of uncomfortable Thanksgivings spent together. Their combined relationships span more than half a century. They sound like marathon runners at the finish line, exhausted but happy, chatting among themselves about some of the more difficult parts of the route.

Once they completed the class, they would be able to go to the Broward County Courthouse at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday, January 6, and legally wed.

All the couples -- ten in total -- who were in that four-hour premarital course at the Sunshine Cathedral were there because they wanted to be among the first same-sex couples in Florida to receive a marriage license. By taking the course, they got to skip the state-required three-day wait between the time they get their license and the time a ceremony is allowed.

For Robert Rhoads and Michael Zemblidge -- one of those three couples sitting in the front of the church -- marriage couldn't come soon enough.

The two will have been together for 30 years come August. Originally from St. Louis, Missouri, they met in a bar after both ended long-term relationships. "You were funny. You were fun to be around, kind of crazy," Zemblidge remembers of his soon-to-be husband.

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Ryan Pfeffer is Miami New Times’ music editor. After earning a BS in editing, writing, and media from Florida State University, Ryan joined the New Times staff in November 2013 as a web editor, where he coined the phrase "pee-tweet" (to retweet someone while urinating). Born and raised in Fort Lauderdale, he’s now neck-deep in bass and booty in the 305.
Contact: Ryan Pfeffer