By Mark Gauert
From my office in the newsroom, I hear the news.
“The stay on same-sex marriage will end on Jan. 5,” the reporters say. “Weddings could begin the next day.”
Which means, barring appeal, January could leap from the least to the most popular month for a wedding in Florida.
I remember another day, in June 2000, when I heard news of another sort from the newsroom.
“We’re up to about a thousand letters and e-mails,’’ the editor said. “They’re canceling their subscriptions because of THAT STORY, in Sunshine.’’
I was the editor of Sunshine, the Sun Sentinel’s Sunday magazine. And no editor ever wants to hear news readers are canceling their subscriptions.
THAT STORY, almost 15 years ago, was called For Better or Worse, writer Steve Friess’ first-person account of his wedding to Jim Richter. Let me clarify that what he called a wedding back then everyone else called, sometimes grudgingly, a “commitment ceremony.’’
“Our wedding wasn’t about legal contracts, so it was about something more,” he wrote. “It was about love, commitment, trust and our futures together. It was about the true intent of a marriage, about the triumph over bigotry, about becoming all that our parents raised us to be as husbands.”
I was moved by Steve and Jim’s story. Despite everything preventing them, conspiring against them, legislating against them, two spirits had found love.
And not just love. Fearless, defiant, love.
I have known such love. I understand it. I can relate to it. This September, my wife and I will celebrate 30 years of it.
“For stony limits cannot hold love out,” Shakespeare wrote, “and what love can do, that dares love attempt.”
Here was a modern day Romeo and Juliet, I thought. Only with two Romeos.
It was clear to me, as an editor. I was sure readers would see it, too. Understand it. Relate to it.
They did not. At least not then. At least … not all of them.
They called to yell at me, then hung up before I could speak. They wrote letters cursing me – usually in English, but, sometimes, inexplicably, in Latin.
“Surely there are some good things to write about in Florida,” one wrote. “We would like some sunshine in Sunshine.”
As the calls came in, I was pretty sure this was the last story I was ever going to edit.
Then, after extensive lessons in Latin, a surprise. The hurricane of complaints at first began to subside, change speed and direction – I guessed because people who’d actually read the story, not just reacted to it, were beginning to speak out.
“I want to tell you how much I enjoyed reading Steve Friess’ story about his wedding,” one wrote. “Parts of it even made me cry.”
“I hope as editor, you didn’t take too much heat on your decision to include this story,” another wrote. “We MUST teach our children to be open, accepting, loving and aware. They must be taught to see the wonder, love and challenges that ALL people face when they choose to follow their hearts and beliefs instead of simply doing what people perceive as ‘acceptable.’”
This is the first issue of a new year, with stories on the season ahead in polo, on making a great first impression, on preparing for college, on eating healthy, on 15 ways to make your life better in the new year.
With the new year may come a new story of tolerance, too. Understanding, openness, awareness.
At our wedding, almost 30 years ago this September, our bridesmaid stood at the altar and recited words that we may all share now.
“But now we still have faith, hope, love, these three; and the greatest of these is love.”
From the archives: Read a reprise of Steve Friess’ For Better or Worse at http://bit.ly/1ypiA7W