“The destination provides an entertaining and secure option for both weddings and honeymoons. There are so many romantic, charming guests houses and resorts on the island – both same-sex and all-welcome,” said Guy Ross, LGBTQ sales manager for the Monroe County Tourist Development Council.
Key West, leading the nation in the historical fight for same-sex legal rights, was Florida’s first city to recognize same-sex domestic partnerships and marriage equality. Monroe County was Florida’s first county to recognize those rights for the entire Florida Keys island chain.
History was made on Key West’s Monroe County Courthouse steps at 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 6, 2015, when Florida’s first same-sex marriage united local gay activists Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones.
Less than six months later, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in all states.
The Key West City Commission passed resolutions supporting same-sex marriage and urging private companies to offer health benefits to employees’ same-sex partners back in March 2004. Key West’s official motto is One Human Family, adopted in 2000, promoting inherent unity and equality of all people.
Current trends indicate that most gay and lesbian weddings in Key West and the Florida Keys are intimate personal events with fewer than 30 guests, Ross said.
“Perhaps the only ‘change’ that we are seeing now with the advent of marriage equality is the inclusion of more family members and more mainstream friends in gay and lesbian ceremonies,” Ross said.
Historic Key West churches with lovely traditional indoor settings include The Basilica of St. Mary Star of the Sea, Key West United Methodist Church, known as the “Old Stone Church,” built of native coral rock; and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Duval Street. St. Paul’s performs same-sex marriages.
At the non-denominational Metropolitan Community Church, pastors have performed commitment ceremonies for gay and lesbian couples since 1984.
Domestic partnership and commitment ceremonies were the only option for gay and lesbian couples wishing to marry before the June 2013 reversal by the U.S. Supreme Court of the Defense of Marriage Act.
“Three years after that reversal, we are seeing more and larger ceremonies for gay and lesbian couples though, without question, smaller more intimate affairs still dominate,” Ross said.
Key West’s outdoor wedding settings, framed by ardent sunsets, include the half-mile-long Smathers Beach on the island’s southern side, in gardens at the former home of author Ernest Hemingway, the Audubon House or the Key West Garden Club at West Martello Tower; the White House Pier or the Key West Lighthouse & Keeper’s Quarters, as examples.
Couples have married on paddleboards and bicycles, and scuba aficionados have married underwater. At Fort Zachary State Park, couples can marry on the beach or at a Civil War-era fort and even plant commemorative underwater coral for a reef to celebrate their union.
Florida Keys honeymoons can be spent in a luxury oceanfront resort, an intimate island suite or a lovingly restored historic guest house. Romantic activities might include commandeering the wheel of a tall ship, chartering a sailboat or hiring a seaplane for a truly memorable day trip to the Dry Tortugas.
Throughout the Keys, experienced gay and lesbian wedding specialists offer subtropical expertise in finding just the right attire, flowers, music, wedding rings, catering, cakes, photographers, videographers, decorators, transportation and officiants.
Key West Business Guild information: gaykeywestfl.com or call 800-535-7797 / 305-294-4603
Key West visitor information: fla-keys.com/keywest or 1-800-LAST-KEY
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