FIU alumni celebrate same-sex marriage

Photo Courtesy of Bruce Pinchbeck

Amanda Rabines/Staff Writer

FIU alumni and former student editor for The Beacon, Andrea Vigil and her partner Rebekah Monson always considered Florida to be their home.

It was where they met almost nine years ago at the Sun Sentinel and it is where they knew they wanted to get married.

“We’ve never wanted to go somewhere else to do it, we wanted to wait until it was legal in Florida,” said Vigil, who graduated in 2013 with a degree in Liberal Studies after taking a hiatus from school to focus on work. “This is our town; it doesn’t make sense to go elsewhere.”

After same-sex marriage became legal in Florida on Jan. 6, the couple joined other eager-to-marry lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgendered couples in a marriage license bureau downtown, Tuesday morning, to tie the knot.

The couple flew in Monson’s mother from Alabama, filled out marriage license forms and were married by an efficient, an hour and a half later.

“It’s nice to have it be recognized legally,” Vigil said. “You know, if god forbid something happened to Rebekah, I want to be by her bedside in a hospital, which would have been difficult to do otherwise.”

In 2008, Florida passed a constitutional gay marriage ban with the support of 62 percent of voters. Nearly seven years later, same-sex couples are able to marry in 36 states and Washington D.C., now including Florida.

“It’s a wonderful experience to finally be able to have my relationship with this person be recognized by everyone,” Vigil said. “We thought it was going to take many more years for it to happen.”

For years, South Florida gay rights advocates groups like SAVE, have been fighting for equal rights, including rights to the same marriage benefits given to hetero-sexual couples.

Now, since the ruling in Florida, LGBT couples may qualify for state’s coverage for health insurance and retirement benefits.

Last week, FIU‘s Division of Human Resources notified FIU employees that the Division of State Group Insurance (DSGI) will recognize any legal marriages as of Jan 6, and will open a chance to apply for state’s benefits programs and family plans through Friday, March 6, 2015.

“I’m glad to see FIU’s HR moving forward,” said Gisela P. Vega, Associate Director for LGBTQA Initiatives and Multicultural Programs and Services at FIU. “We [LGBTQA] knew it was a matter of time before the Florida ban was overturned.”

Two FIU alums from the LGBTQA community, Cathy Pareto and Karla Arguello, agree.

Last fall, the couple of 14 years were guest speakers during National Coming Out Day at FIU, and have been committed to LGBTQA initiatives, such as promptly supporting and preparing for the ruling on Jan. 5.

It was that afternoon, Pareto and Arguello became the first same-sex couple married in Florida.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge, Sarah Zabel, wedded the couple and after the ceremony they stood outside in their cream colored dresses and held a green sign that read: “IT’S TIME FOR MARRIAGE IN FLORIDA.”

To be involved with FIU LGBTQA visit their “Welcome Reception,” in MMC Jan. 14, in GC 243, from 4-6 p.m., or Jan. 15, at BBC, WUC 157, from 12-2 p.m.

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