Florida Couples Anxiously Await Ruling on Gay Marriage Challenge, Plan Gatherings

Across Florida, same sex couples are anxiously awaiting rulings on three lawsuits challenging the state's ban on same-sex marriage. But couples are already planning out where to gather when the rulings finally land, which could happen any day.

"Melanie and I have been on pins and needles all week hoping for a positive ruling," says Vanessa Alenier, who with her partner Melanie is among the six couples in the Pareto v. Ruvin case. "We are already a complete family, but the ruling will get us one step closer to a complete family in the eyes of the law."

See also: Miami Case Could Decide Future of Gay Marriage In Florida

The Aleniers, a Miami couple with a five-year-old adopted son named Ethan, had a hearing earlier this month at the Miami-Dade County Courthouse to challenge Florida's constitutional amendment against gay marriage. Along with five other couples, they demanded that Judge Sarah Zabel order Miami Circuit Court Clerk Harvey Ruvin to begin issuing marriage licenses immediately.

They're are hoping Zabel will rule soon, but whenever it comes, they'll be attending one of a series of gatherings around the state organized by Equality Florida.

"The gatherings will happen no matter the outcome. Celebration on a positive ruling and a forum to discuss what's next on a negative ruling," says Sue Hoffman, an Equality Florida spokeswoman.

Other plaintiffs are also awaiting the ruling, which could start the process of overturning Florida's ban, which voters approved in 2008. Aaron Huntmans and William "Lee" Jones, a Monroe County couple who have been together for 11 years, say they expected the ruling to come last week.

"We honestly thought [the ruling] would come in on Friday. I've been a nervous wreck all week, we really think the ruling will be positive but we're still on our toes," said Huntsman.

Most of the opposition to overturning Florida's ban has come from religious right groups like Miami's Christian Family Coalition, which brought protestors to the courthouse outside the Aleniers' hearing. But many of the planned gatherings across the state will be held in churches that support gay unions.

Rev. Dr. Candace Shultis of the King of Peace Metropolitan Community Church, for instance, has offered to host a Saint Petersburg gathering when the decision comes.

"[The LGBT community] has lived with disappointment for many years but I don't expect to be disappointed this time around," she says.

In South Florida, the gatherings are planned at 6 p.m. on the day Zabel's decision lands at the Pride Center at Equality Park in Wilton Manors, Aqua Nightclub in Key West, and the LGBT Visitors Center in Miami Beach.

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