|By Dan Sweeney, Sun Sentinel|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
Six gay and lesbian couples did not suddenly decide, at the same moment in early January, to get marriage licenses even though same-sex marriages are illegal in
But there was the couple, paperwork in hand, ready to get their marriage license -- or rather, ready to be turned down. So were
A sixth couple involved in the suit,
These six couples -- four of whom live in
That month, Equality Florida, the state's largest LGBT rights organization, started the Get Engaged campaign, looking for committed couples willing to be guinea pigs.
"We put out a call to let people know that we wanted to do two things," said
Within 24 hours, about 500 couples submitted their stories. Eventually, more than 1,000 said they would be willing to join a lawsuit for same-sex marriage.
The organization held Get Engaged summits, in which potential couples were interviewed, videotaped and culled. Couples that had already been married in other states were crossed off the list. Other couples dropped out once Equality Florida's staff explained to them how big of a commitment this really was.
A law firm then thinned the group with input from Equality Florida and Freedom to Marry, a national group campaigning for same-sex marriage in all 50 states.
"It mattered to us that we could get people that spoke from different perspectives -- grandparents, parents, people that had been together for years, and newly engaged people," Smith said. "
The group settled on the six couples for the
"The woman behind the counter was like, 'Oh, did something change?'" Delmay said. "Other people there, straight couples who were getting their licenses, were taking pictures of all of us. We knew we'd be denied, but it was still an exciting day."
Schwartz filed a lawsuit a week later.
All of them were ready for this. While all of them were "in it for the long haul," perhaps none were as prepared as the Aleniers, who live in
In 2010, they were plaintiffs in one of two lawsuits, along with that of
Between adoption and marriage,
"A month after I got [maternity insurance] coverage, we got the news about Ethan," a relative of Vanessa's at risk of being place in foster care,
"He was our life the minute we had him,"
The Aleniers were sort of ringers in the decision process. Equality
"I'm sure they wanted to make sure everyone was in a committed relationship and were serious about being in the lawsuit," Vanessa said.
In this battle, "it feels like we've got the support of the whole country,"
And if they prevail, they hope to have a court date that, finally, is for them alone.
"It'll be very small, it might even just be the two of us at the courthouse,"
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