LGBTQ South Florida

Widower with two babies asks Gov. Rick Scott to end Florida’s same-sex marriage ban

Jorge “Coco” Goytizolo and babies Ella and Santiago ask Gov. Rick Scott to help end Florida’s gay marriage ban.
Jorge “Coco” Goytizolo and babies Ella and Santiago ask Gov. Rick Scott to help end Florida’s gay marriage ban. Equality Florida

Last winter, Jorge “Coco” Goytizolo, husband Phillip Parrish and their newborn twins met Florida Gov. Rick Scott inside an elevator at Aventura Mall.

According to the couple, Scott complimented them on “their beautiful family.”

The governor also commented that he and Parrish had the same hairstyle. Parrish at the time was dying of brain cancer.

The Fort Lauderdale men then wrote an open letter to Scott criticizing the governor for not recognizing their New York marriage in Florida.

The men never delivered the letter. Parrish, 48, died May 3.

On Oct. 31, Goytizolo and his babies recorded a marriage-equality video for LGBT-rights group Equality Florida.

Here’s the undelivered open letter to Scott:

An Open Letter to Governor Scott

Dear Governor Scott,

It was so nice bumping into you in the elevator at Aventura Mall a few weeks back. You put us at ease immediately by commenting that your hairstyle matched my husband Philip’s, and your lovely comments about our twins were heartwarming.

As new parents, Philip and I delight in watching the joy that meeting our beautiful twins brings to peoples’ faces. You were like everyone else in that!

Unfortunately, however, I could not help but think that in many other ways, you are not like everyone else. Philip and I are not like everyone else either, but there is one way in which we believe we should be. As two men, our marriage is not recognized by the state of Florida. Even though our marriage is legal in New York and sixteen other states plus Washington, DC, and even though it is recognized federally by the U.S. Government, it is not so here in our home state, where we live, work and raise our family.

I want to take a moment to share a little bit more with you about our family and our dedication and commitment to each other. It is my sincere hope that our story will help you understand why it is so important to do everything possible to bring to Florida the freedom to marry for same-sex couples.

Philip has stage-4 brain cancer. We learned it only days after we received the results of the six-month ultrasound of our babies. We are fighting the illness with everything we have and remain hopeful. Yet, the possibility that such a loving and good man may be taken away from us before “his time” is a constant worry and heartbreaking, especially with respect to young Ella, Santiago and me (Philip and I have been together for 15 years).

We are tremendously blessed in that we have a loving and supportive extended family and so many friends who have committed wholeheartedly to helping us in every way. But in addition to what every family in our situation faces when someone is battling a disease, we are unfortunate in ways that only affect same-sex couples: Our marriage is not recognized here. Our children do not have the same guaranteed protections afforded to the children of opposite-gender married couples in Florida.

It scares us, and causes us to worry about how our family will be impacted by the different treatment we receive under the law here in Florida. Our fears are compounded by the fact that our home state, the place where we are raising our children, does not recognize the legitimacy of our marriage--something Ella and Santiago will undoubtedly realize as they grow up, and by which they will be negatively impacted.

I know you hear from same-sex couples and LGBT-advocacy groups all the time. Philip and I thought long and hard about whether we could afford to get involved in that now, when our resources of time and energy are stretched so thinly.

And then we remembered how you looked at our babies — the genuine smile that lit up your face that day in the elevator, the compliment, that we “have a beautiful family,” and we thought, “This man could not possibly continue to allow our babies to suffer and be treated unequally merely because of who their parents love.” That is when we realized that we had to reach out to you and tell you our story.

We wish you a moment of peace and clarity and hope that you will see our truth and beauty, and help us to become, in the eyes of the law here in Florida, what we are in the eyes of so many other states and the federal government, and what so many know us to be — a legally married couple with children, whose family is as precious as any other.

Sincerely,

Jorge “Coco”, Philip, Ella and Santiago

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