The Key West Mystique

Key West Island News

 

Key West Island News connects Key West residents and friends of the island, fosters our One Human Family culture and advances understanding of shared goals for our island community

Gay marriage: It will happen in Key West. And soon.

By Linda Grist Cunningham, editor and proprietor

Linda Grist Cunningham is editor and proprietor of Key West Island News and KeyWestWatch Media LLC. She and her husband, a park ranger at Fort Zach, live in Key West with their Cat 5s.

07/08/2014

One of our phone conversations before the aneurysm burst and John died barely past his fiftieth birthday went like this:

Me: Well, we always said we’d know we were old when Chorus Line returned as a Broadway revival.

John: Yeah, the previews are great. Want me to book three tickets for October? You, Ed and me?

Me: Do it. But why not four? Doesn’t Dick want to go?

John: He hates Chorus Line. He’ll meet us for dinner.

Me: Good deal. See you then. Send me the bill. By the way, did you ever get that power of attorney and your will done? I mean, you and Dick need to make sure you’re legally protected. Just in case.

John: Yeah, yeah. You’re right. I’ll get it done.

He didn’t; he died just weeks before Chorus Line. We went to New York and Dick used John’s ticket to a show he hated. He sat between Ed and me. We cried and sang along and held hands. We went to dinner after and Dick told us. Because he and John failed to create a legal partnership contract, John’s estate reverted to his family. There was nothing left for Dick except what the family might choose to share — and that was proving to be, well, not generous.

John and Dick could be a stage-show-worthy, dysfunctional husband and wife. Bickering and snuggling, sharing and caring. Years of making each other better than they’d have been alone. I’d known John since high school. We fast forwarded together through college, careers and his coming out as AIDS became a daily headline.

We careened through our week-long “jubilee,” a Key West-La Te Da-sunset-cruise celebration of turning 50 and proving we still “got it.” We exchanged panicked messages as the World Trade Center Towers collapsed just down the island from his condo. Dick spread John’s ashes over the Dry Tortugas.

I loved that Dick made John’s eyes sparkle. A comfortable as old shoes married couple, except they weren’t. And a decade ago, even a domestic partnership in urbane New York City was little more than an oh-so-aware cocktail conversation.

John and Dick could get married today in New York. Not in Florida, not today, and not ever if Florida Attorney General Pam Biondi has her way. She intends to fight marriage equality every step of the way.

But Florida has its own marriage equality warriors. Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones, two Key West residents denied a marriage license in Monroe County, took their lawsuit before Chief Monroe County Circuit Court Judge Luis Garcia this week. Garcia said he would issue a ruling shortly.

In less than 15 years, marriage equality has morphed from a not-in-my-lifetime cocktail conversation into a reality as state after state recognizes what John and Dick — and gay couples throughout history — always knew. We are like you. We are you.

John would have been delighted. How about a Key West wedding to celebrate our 65th?

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Linda Grist Cunningham

Linda Grist Cunningham is editor and proprietor of Key West Island News and KeyWestWatch Media LLC. She and her husband, a park ranger at Fort Zach, live in Key West with their Cat 5s.

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