Despite last night’s chill, we were warmed by the scene atop the North Palm Avenue Garage: After 38 years together, Ken Shelin and Steve Stockwell took advantage of the new marriage equality laws in Florida and tied the knot.
“Marriage equality ensures now in the state of Florida that those who wish to make a commitment to one another can do so legally and be recognized by the entire community,” Shelin said in a matrimonial glow. “Marriage equality has a clear, simple, inclusive and non-bigoted meaning: Anyone can marry the person that their heart chooses to love and commit their heart to that person in front of family, friends, neighbors and the community at large.”
I didn’t realize I was the type to cry at weddings until this moment.
Shelin, the 2015 Biz(941)/La Guia Unity Award Alumni winner and chair of the Equality Florida Board of Directors, and Stockwell partnered with the Sarasota Film Festival as it screened—aptly titled—The Perfect Wedding, a film about two young gay men who meet and fall in love. The baby blue pinstripe-suited Michael Dunaway, who has taken over as the festival’s creative producer this year, introduced the film saying, “In the history of heterosexual/homosexual relations in this country there have been many great filmmakers and artists who have bridged the gaps well, but I think the progress we’ve seen in the last couple of years would not have come as quickly if not for the greater understanding of our brothers and sisters that was engendered by cinema. Always remember that art changes lives, art changes society and art changes the world.”
After the screening, the newlyweds cut the cake catered by Pastries by Design and the floor opened up for dancing. A bride and groom (actually an engaged couple who work at Equality Florida), stunningly bedazzled drag queens, and the happiest family, friends and supporters closed out the evening staying warm while swaying to the beat.
“Same sex marriage is harmless,” Shelin said. “It’s not a matter of redefining marriage; it allows LGBT people to be a part of it.” Marriage equality is now legal in 37 states and Washington, D.C. Charlie Ann Syprett, the festival’s development director, added, “It’s a team effort. It [takes] all of us together who have a belief in what is right and what is fair.”