LGBTQ South Florida

Key West same-sex marriage expo includes a wedding


Recognizing that Key West likely will become a same-sex marriage destination, the Key West Business Guild on Wednesday staged the city's first-ever same-sex marriage expo.

The event at the Marriott Beachside Hotel on North Roosevelt Boulevard came about two months removed from Florida's ban on gay marriage being lifted. About 40 vendors, from Eaton Street's Old Town Manor to Duval Street's Hard Rock Cafe, were on hand to pitch their services.

The expo also had a celebration -- Key Westers Ronnie Rupe and Richard Dennison, who have been together about 40 years, got married there.

"It was so much outpouring of love and fellowship amongst everyone where by when you're out in the community, it's a knife fighting to get the business," said Rupe, who runs Gourmet Nibbles & Flowers on Frances Street with Dennison. "There it was just so mellow and so nice."

In terms of vendors, same-sex marriage means newfound business for many. Bob Kephart, who has married one same-sex couple on a sailboat, plans to cater more toward these weddings. He usually covers events across the Southernmost City with his "Just Shoot Me" van.

"I'm just having fun," Kephart said.

Guests at the expo munched on light bites from shrimp and grits to empanadas, which were included in the $10 ticket price.

Key West attorney Carl Stevens had a booth set up as part of local law firm Horan, Wallace & Higgins to educate folks on the legal issues facing the LGBT community. Stevens said despite legal same-sex marriage, the LGBT community could still be discriminated against.

"There was a lot of good reaction to what we had on the table," Stevens said. "Getting married isn't the end of the story."

Also at the expo, Key West same-sex couple Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones said they are throwing a reception the night before the U.S. Supreme Court holds arguments on same-sex marriage April 28 in Washington, D.C.

On April 1, 2014, Huntsman and Jones sued Monroe County Clerk Amy Heavilin for a marriage license. They were represented by attorneys Bernadette Restivo, Jessica Reilly and Elena Vigil-Fariñas of Key Largo. The couple, who won their state case on July 17, 2014, married just after midnight Jan. 6, minutes after the Florida ban ended.