Last month six couples sued the State of Florida for the right to marriage.
“Today the majority of Floridians stand with us as we take this historic step toward marriage equality in the Sunshine State,” said Nadine Smith, CEO of Equality Florida Institute. “These couples have been embraced by their families and communities, but every day, Florida laws are denying them the protections and dignity that every family deserves. These harmful laws are outdated and out of step.”
Summer Greene, a real estate agent who lives in Plantation with her partner of 25 years, Pamela Faerber had this to say about their decision to participate in the lawsuit. “As Pam and I get older, it worries me that we do not have the legal protections that marriage provides in case one of us becomes ill or dies.”
Joining Greene and Faerber as plantiffs in the lawsuit are Catherina Pareto and Karla Arguello; Dr. Juan Carlos Rodriguez and David Price; Vanessa and Melanie Alenier; Todd and Jeff Delmay; and Don Price Johnston and Jorge Isaias Diaz. They are represented by the law firm Carlton Fields Jorden Burt, attorney Elizabeth F. Schwartz, attorney Mary B. Meeks and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR).
For this week’s Valentine’s Day issue SFGN wanted to take a closer look at these six couples. And so on the next two pages you’ll find their stories, stories of love, commitment and hope.
Karla Arguello and Cathy Pareto
By Christiana Lilly
Not all romances start with love at first sight, and that was the case for Karla Arguello and Cathy Pareto of Coconut Grove.
“We worked on a project together and frankly, I didn’t like her when I first met her,” Pareto laughed about Arguello. “I didn’t really give her the time of day.”
Today, she gushes that her partner is smart, can talk about anything, is well traveled, and has “the most captive” eyes. Arguello says her partner is the most genuine person she’s ever met.
Together, the two love to host dinner parties, going to the movies and concerts, eating out, and catching a performance at the theater. The women have also been around the world, with some stand out trips including Mallorca, Spain, the French wine country, and a precarious volcano hiking excursion in Mexico.
However, their lives have been less spontaneous since they adopted their 16-month-old son, Enzo, when he was born. Arguello was at the peak of her career when she decided to stay at home to raise their son, since the two didn’t want to leave him with a stranger.
“I don’t think we slept the whole night when he came home with us because we were just staring at him,” Arguello said. “Now that we have Enzo, it’s ‘Enzo’s World.’”
Today, the couple has been together for 14 years and are yearning to complete their family and be married in the eyes of the law — and those of other LGBT families.
“We’re just like so many other couples, gay or straight. We’re doing this for each other and we’re doing this for our family and other families to have that protection under the law,” Pareto said.
Vanessa and Melanie Alenier
By Christiana Lilly
Vanessa and Melanie Alenier are a normal family living in Hollywood with their 5-year-old son. The three love spending the day out on the boat, hitting the beach, barbecuing by the pool, and going to their son’s sports games.
Their story began started eight years ago when the two met through a mutual friend. However, it would be another year before finally deciding to have a platonic lunch date. Luckily, the service was so slow it gave them a lot of time to talk.
“I just felt sparks,” Melanie said. “It was just so easy talking to her and the conversation just flowed. We didn’t even think we were going out as a date. It was after the fact that we realized, wow, we had so much to talk about and we just really got along.”
Ironically, the two initially shared a vision of their lives without children — that changed three years later when both of them felt a yearning to expand their family. They started making plans for either adoption or pregnancy, and after a romantic trip to New York City, they got a call that their son was born.
Vanessa summed up meeting their son for the first time with one word: amazing. However, as gay parents, it was far from easy. Although he was born to a family member, Vanessa was only considered a guardian by the state since Florida had a gay adoption ban (it was overturned in 2010). The couple fought for a year before they were legally their son’s adoptive parents and Melanie was legally recognized as his second parent.
The next big goal for the family is for Melanie and Vanessa to get married in the state both of them were raised in and call home. They’ve discounted getting married out of state for this reason.
“We’re just two people in love and committed to each other on every level, and we have a son who also wants his parents married. I hope that change will occur so that we can get married in Florida,” Melanie said.
Jorge Diaz and Don Johnston
By Denise Royal
Jorge Diaz and Don Johnston seem destined to be together. The Florida natives have only been a couple for one year. They were friends for three years prior to that. But it was fate (and match.com) that brought them together romantically.
After joining the online dating site, they each received emails from match.com stating they were a 94 percent match. That was all it took! They never looked back and have fallen head over heels in love. At the end of last year, Johnston proposed to Diaz. Both felt the time was right not only to get married, but also to wed legally in Florida.
“It seems like Florida is ripe for this. It’s a natural progression,” Diaz said.
The families of both men have deep political roots in the state. Diaz is the younger brother of former Miami mayor Manny Diaz. Their father was a political prisoner in Cuba, who was later released and joined his family in Miami.
Johnston’s grandfather was a longtime chair of the Leon County commission in the Florida panhandle. His father was a county judge.
“Both families are willing to throw their political weight behind this fight,” said Johnston. “We have the Cubans and the Cracker vote.”
Both men feel love can conquer all obstacles. “The fact that we are even having this national debate is a direct result of so many LGBT trailblazers who sacrificed so much so that the generations in the future can experience Valentine’s Day and their love just like anyone else,” Diaz said.
“Our role is a small one but it serves to remind us and all those who know us and meet us that the torch of change is upon us; our sacrifices and those made before us were not in vain. The time is now, the State is Florida. We ask all of your readers to believe in love, hope and the very meaning of Valentine Days – a day to profess publicly the love for the most important person in our lives, “ said both Johnston and Diaz.
Juan Carlos Rodriguez and David Price
Living in Broward’s ranching community of Davie, Dr. Juan Carlos Rodriguez and his partner David Price actually met in Colombia.
Price was living as an expatriate in Bogota as a sales and market manager for the Latin sector of his company while Rodriguez was in medical school — the two met on a trip to the country with mutual friends. Rodriguez noticed Price’s outgoing personality, cute face and that he was learning Spanish.
“[I noticed] how tall, dark and handsome he was,” Price said of his partner. “Literally. He’s very tall and he’s dark and very handsome. That sounds like a cliché from a movie, but that’s exactly what ran through my head.”
After a year of dating, Rodriguez moved to the coast for a year of social service and the two met frequently in Cartagena, where they got their SCUBA certification. Then, Price moved to the U.S., followed by Rodriguez a few months later, which included issues with immigration until Rodriguez was able to stay on an asylum visa.
Sixteen years later, Rodriguez has his own medical practice where Price is the office manager, and they’re the fathers of twin 3-year-old children, Christian and Sofía, born through a surrogate. That also included immigration battles.
“That was another issue we encountered, mainly because of not being able to marry,” Rodriguez said. “We had to go through 10,000 things and years and money to be able to have the kids. We’re very lucky that we have the resources.”
Price says Christian looks like his side of the family, while Sofía favors his partner’s. Christian loves all things boy, while Sofía is all about pink princess dresses. The two are fluent in Spanish and English, calling their parents daddy and papi, and they both love going to birthday parties with their friends from school.
“Families are different. Our families is different, but we’re a family,” Price said. “The laws just need to recognize that and allow us to be together with the same rights and responsibilities as every other family. We really want this to change for all families in Florida.”
Summer Greene and Pamela Faerber: Homebodies Still in Love
By John McDonald
After 25 years together, Valentine’s Day becomes everyday for Summer Greene and Pamela Faerber.
“We’re home bodies,” admits Greene.
The couple met while attending choir practice at Nova Southeastern University and their mutual love for singing is what started this romance.
“Pam will tell you it was the smell of the shampoo in my hair and my voice,” Greene quips. “We enjoyed becoming friends.”
Summer has a successful career in real estate and is regional manager at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Florida 1st. Pamela is a portrait artist and together the women raised Pamela’s daughter from a prior marriage and now have two grandchildren, ages 10 and 17.
Despite all the happiness through the years, the one thing missing from their life is marriage.
“As Pam and I get older, it worries me that we do not have the legal protections that marriage provides in case one of us becomes ill or dies,” Summer said. “Getting married in Florida will provide us with those important protections and it will allow us to celebrate that joyous occasion with all our family and friends, just as other couples can.”
Summer said she feels confident the legal challenge to Florida’s same-sex marriage ban will be successful.
“The temperature is changing,” Summer said. “Going through the court system is very promising and there is real momentum on our side. Just look what is happening in Utah. So, it’s like, come on Florida, let’s not be the last one.”
In their spare time, the couple enjoys renovating their house in Plantation and boating. They are also proud owners of two poodle dogs.
Todd and Jeff Delmay
By John McDonald
Todd and Jeff Delmay are raising a 4-year-old son together and bracing for one of the biggest legal battles in the State of Florida.
“We feel honored to be a part of the lawsuit,” said Todd Delmay, a travel agent who is originally from Michigan and now lives in Hollywood with his partner of 11 years, Jeff.
The Delmays met while Jeff was working at the Mandarin Oriental, a luxury resort in Miami.
“It sounds so cliché, but we see each other across a crowded room and there were real sparks and chemistry there,” Todd recalled.
The Delmays proudly stood in front of a throng of television cameras and news reporters at last month’s press conference in Miami Beach, announcing the lawsuit.
“You could feel the excitement in the air,” Todd said. “Everyone there was so supportive. We have a new set of amazing friends.”
Six couples are part the Equality Florida Institute lawsuit, a fight that Jeff Delmay says is essentially about the future and raising children, like the couple’s adopted son, Blake.
“Like all parents, making sure that our son is safe and secure is our top priority,” Jeff said. “Unfortunately, because the State of Florida will not allow us to get married we cannot provide the level of protections that opposite-sex married couples are able to give to their children. Beyond those critical protections, we want the opportunity to celebrate our love and commitment to one another in a wedding ceremony and have it mean something, which the state is currently denying us.”
For Valentine’s Day, the Delmays anticipate a low-key occasion as the special day for lovers falls on a big business week with the Miami Boat Show. Todd and Jeff own and operate Delmay and Partners, a company that provides housing services for large events.