It started with a celebration of marriage equality and ended with a call to action in the political arena.
Thirty-four same-sex couples were wed Saturday morning at Hemming Park. They and nearly 1,000 family members, friends and supporters were there to celebrate marriage equality in Florida.
It was the first day couples who secured marriage licenses Tuesday could be legally joined as spouses.
Seventy-five members of the clergy, 40 notaries public, photographers and videographers donated their services and were set up at several spots near the stage area.
The event was organized by Carrington Mead, an attorney and LGBT rights advocate. As she welcomed the crowd, she noticed many of her colleagues in the legal profession who ventured out on a chilly morning to witness equal-rights history. A cheer went up from the crowd when Mead acknowledged the presence of so many members of The Jacksonville Bar Association.
“I’m kind of surprised, but not that surprised,” she said.
Pastor Avery Garner from St. Luke’s Community Church married two couples.
“I’m gay and it’s wonderful to be able to see people who love each other and want to get married be able to do that,” he said.
After the ceremonies were performed, couples were invited to the stage for their first dance. After the traditional tossing of the bouquets into the crowd, Mead noted the historic nature of the event and then issued a call to action.
“Our voices have been heard. With our voices, we have won in the court. With our voices, we have won equality. With our voices, we have won the right to treat the people we love like family, just like everyone else,” she said. “That’s because love always wins.”
Referencing that Duval County is less than 70 days from the March election that could change the direction of local government, Mead said “the fight is not over” and the community must continue to hear the voices of the LGBT community.
“What we need in Jacksonville is a mayor and a (city) council that support equality for all and are not afraid to make a bold statement. We do not need politicians who will stand in the background and say nothing. We need representation that will stand up for everyone,” she said.
“It’s time to start winning elections in Jacksonville.”
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