Joy and Kat Drawdy met as teenagers in 1989. Believing they would never legally be allowed to marry, they made their own commitments to each other seven years ago and have since referred to each other as “wife.”
Tuesday, their union was finally recognized by the state of Florida as they joined 27 other same-sex couples in receiving marriage licenses in Alachua County.
Joy said although the couple had entered a domestic partnership and know of many couples who had commitment ceremonies, these options did not feel as real as their marriage.
“This is like our mom and dad kind of married,” Kat said.
“Not that it legitimizes our love, obviously, because that was already real and already there,” Joy said, “but it’s something about having some of those same benefits of marriage.”
The couple’s new status affords them numerous benefits. Chief among them in their eyes is Joy’s ability to now adopt Kat’s son.
Alachua County Clerk of Court Buddy Irby married the couple in a ceremony held at the courthouse Tuesday morning.
The courthouse opened at 8 a.m., 15 minutes earlier than usual in anticipation of the marriages, said Karen Kenniston, courts record manager, who performed six of the ceremonies including the first.
“It was a very joyous day,” Kenniston said. “We saw many couples who were extremely happy that had been together for years and years. Finally this day arrived, and it was a very celebratory feeling in this courthouse.”
Elizabeth Rodgers and Jody Hall hurried to get married after they got off work.
“I think we were waiting on the other shoe to drop. Like it’s not really going to happen,” Rodgers said. “But it did, so then we didn’t even really talk about whether or not we would get married.”
“[We] just knew that’s where we’re going,” Hall said.
Rodgers and Hall have been together for the past eight years and have spent the past three engaged. Although they considered getting married out of state, they wanted to wait until it was legal in Florida.
“I hope people can come to the understanding that it really doesn’t affect them,” Hall said. “Me marrying Elizabeth has nothing to do with them.”
The Pride Community Center of North Central Florida held an event Tuesday night to celebrate the occasion and the couples who were married that day.
Several of the couples married earlier in the day attended.
Irby received a round of applause as he entered the building.
Terry Fleming, co-president of the Pride Center, added, although this is a large step for the LGBT community, there are still many issues it faces including employment and housing discrimination.
“People that have waited an awful long time,” Fleming said. “Some folks that have been together 30, 40 years finally had the opportunity to have their relationships recognized today, and that’s an incredible step forward.”