ORLANDO, Fla. - From Washington, D.C., to Orlando, crowds of Americans erupted in cheers and tears of joy as the U.S. Supreme Court overturned bans on gay marriage.
"We know that love matters -- love and commitment and families," Ida Eskamani of Equality Florida said. "These are the messages that folks know and appreciate. Marriage equality is just what it is."
Eskamani said marriage equality has been the main mission of the organization for many years.
Although same-sex couples have been able to legally marry in Florida since January, she said Friday's ruling is important because it requires other states to recognize marriages performed here.
"When you think about these basic rights that so many people take for granted, now everyone in the United States of America will have those basic securities and protections," she said.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer praised the decision Friday morning, talking about the more than 40 same-sex marriages over which he has presided since January.
"We think the communities that are embracing diversity and fairness are going to be those who are successful in the future," Dyer told Local 6.
John Stemberger with Florida Family Action was not happy about today's decision. Stemberger filed a lawsuit in December trying to stop gays and lesbians from getting married and lost.
"This is the worst possible outcome of several outcomes that could've happened," he said.
Stemberger compares the ruling to Roe v. Wade, which is still being challenged in the nation's highest court.
"What about polygamists? What about group marriage?" he asked. "If marriage can mean anything -- once you remove the gender requirement for marriage between a man and a woman -- basically it dissolves into whatever you want to call it."
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who had fought the legalization in Florida, issued a statement, saying:
"We have always sought finality on this important constitutional issue, and today the United States Supreme Court provided the clarity our state and country was seeking. Our country has vigorously debated the issue, with good people on all sides. Many on both sides feel strongly about the issue, having deeply held and sincere beliefs. Legal efforts were not about personal beliefs or opinions, but rather, the rule of law. The United States Supreme Court has the final word on interpreting the Constitution, and the court has spoken."
It's a day Myrna Maysonet never expected when she met Rebeca Torres in 2001.
"It was love at first sight," said Torres-Maysonet.
The two wanted to marry and eventually have kids but never thought they could.
"I said, 'I don't think we'll see this in our lifetime.' She said, 'No, you're wrong. You will see this in your lifetime. I promise you,'" said Maysonet as she recalled a conversation early in their relationship.
Ten years later, when New York legalized gay marriage, the couple wed in Central Park surrounded by friends and family. Then, they came home to Florida.
"Yes, we were married in New York, but it didn't apply here. We came back after a huge celebration, and it was sort of a downer," said Torres-Maysonet.
Their marriage was void. Health coverage, hospital visitation, parental rights and other rights offered in New York were not recognized in other states. For many gay Americans, an uneven patchwork of state laws gave rights to some, but not all.
"Our children will grow in a place where our marriage is considered equal. If something happens to me, my children will have the same legal entitlements as any other children," said Maysonet. "Respect. That's what this is all about."
"Love always wins," said Torres-Maysonet.
Equality Florida hosted celebrations throughout the state Friday.
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