Same-sex couples take part in mass wedding

By Ashley Spicer - Reporter, anchor, Jason Mealey - Producer/assignment editor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - About 60 same-sex couples gathered in Hemming Park to tie the knot on the first Saturday after it became legal in Florida.

Eddie Vizcaya and Kevin Ondarza have been together for 11 years. Saturday their union became official.

"We're all equal now that's the way I feel about it. I'm no different than any other man and I think when society realizes that our intent is not to hurt people. Accept that we're different and that's what makes the world what it is," said Vizcaya and Ondarza 

But not everyone at the park was accepting of same-sex marriages. Protesters showed up around 8:30 a.m. Because it was a private event at the park, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office came to escort them out of the park.

"I mean anger is the narrow-mindedness of people who don't accept change. Change is inevitable.  Looking at one of the protesters I'm surprised. Less than 50 years ago he wasn't able to marry or vote or even use the same restroom as anyone else you and just turn around and condemn other people it's not right," said one couple.

Another couple making a lifetime commitment, Danielle Pettis and Stephanie Smith, said they have been together for three years.

"We definitely thought Florida would be the last state to come around to legalize gay marriage," said Pettis and Smith. 

They ladies say as far as the protesting went, they just ignore it.

"It doesn't bother me. I knew they were going to be out here. I told her. I told our family that they would be out here. It's just part of life." 

Straight Allies, a group which supports equal civil rights and gender equality was out with white sheets to block the protesters signs so none of the signs would be in wedding photos.

The Duval County Courthouse has shut down all wedding operations just before same-sex marriage became legal, although that decision is being reconsidered. The gay community plans to fight this and hopes the court will open back up services to all couples, gay or straight.  

Local attorneys chose the mass wedding to announce they would fight to add protections for homosexuals to Jacksonville's Human Rights Ordinance.

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