Voting for equality, family

Jeff and Todd Delmay have been together for 14 years. “From the very start we wanted to be a family and we wanted to be parents,” said Jeff.

In 2010, they got the opportunity to start a family when a relative called them about adopting the baby she was having. They wanted to adopt, but in Florida they faced a legal hurdle because same sex couples were not allowed to adopt at the time.

“In order to comply with the law, Jeff had to adopt our son as a single parent, and I had to hide in the background with a group of friends in the courtroom so that it wouldn’t raise any questions with the judge,” explained Todd. “The whole process was ridiculous and degrading,” he continued.

Luckily for Todd, Jeff, and their son, the adoption ban was overturned later that year, so the family returned to court so that both parents could be recognized as his parents. Blake was among the first children to be adopted by same sex parents in the State of Florida.

But the fight didn’t end there. Even though they shared legal parenting rights, they still lacked access to equal spousal rights to fully protect their son and family. Todd says that “although we were both finally identified Blake’s legal parents, it gave us no legal rights to each other. By statute the courts and the hospitals could not, and did not recognize same sex families as families. We had to structure our relationship with each other and our child through other legal tools like ‘guardianships’ and ‘parenting agreements.’”

In January 2014, Jeff and Todd took a more active role in fighting for their family’s equal rights and the rights of LGBT families around Florida. They accepted the invitation of the National Center for Lesbian Rights to join five other couples in Miami-Dade, along with Equality Florida in suing for the right to marry in Florida.

A year later as the entire State was set to gain marriage equality beginning January 6th as the result of another case, their case, which had been decided but then stayed months earlier was called back to court on January 5th. Their Miami-Dade judge, Sarah Zabel, lifted her stay at the hearing, which allowed them to be married immediately, nearly 12 hours before other couples in the State. History was made when the judge herself married the Delmays and another plaintiff couple, making them the first couples to marry in Florida.

Because their marriage preceded the rest of the State, Todd says, “we appeared on the front page of nearly every major Florida paper, so even Governor Scott’s second inauguration was mostly a smaller story in the State.”

“It was one of those weird, crazy, unimagined moments where you suddenly find yourself in the midst of history in the making. Being able to get married changed our lives though because everything we had hoped for, everything we had fought for had finally come true. We were able to be recognized under the law as a couple and with that our family was acknowledged as deserving of all the same rights and protections of every other couple and family in Florida,” Jeff emotionally says.

Todd explains the importance of the past few years and the pace of change: “I’m 45. And I grew up in a country and in a place and time where the treatment of LGBT individuals in my family and many others was ‘we don’t want to talk about it; we don’t want to think about it.’ To imagine that just a few years ago George W. Bush and the Republican Party were winning elections on the backs of LGBT people by demonizing us and putting same sex marriage bans on the ballot in order to drive people to the polls out of fear. It’s amazing the progress we’ve made.”

Jeff said “when we first got involved with our lawsuit, we thought, ‘Oh, this will take YEARS to resolve’”

It didn’t take years to resolve, but Todd lays out what the Florida LGBT community is up against next: “Despite the big win for marriage equality, the backlash has arrived. Whether it’s bathroom bills or an unwillingness to ban discrimination in the workforce, we still have years of difficult work ahead of us.”

“And that is part of why we are such vocal supporters of Hillary. We have so much to protect, and the forces we are up against have not retreated, so we have to keep on fighting too. We must never give up. You don’t always win everything in one big stroke of the pen, or one big action, it takes time. But you have to keep working at it, and working with allies like Hillary.”

This election is important for Todd, for Jeff, and for their son. In Hillary they see a champion and a fellow fighter for LGBT equality. Todd sums up their support: “For as much as Hillary’s been through, she never lets anything keep her down, she gets back up and keeps fighting. We recognize in her the same mindset that the LGBT community has in fighting for equal rights. And we know that with her leadership we will be stronger together.”