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Separate, not equal

Orlando's same-sex couples celebrate the city's new domestic-partnership registry, but a fumble by Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs dampens the mood

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“So, 23 years later, we’re still here,” Humphress says.

It wasn’t always this easy. Humphress came out of the closet in 1985, the same year that he started his library-software business. His mother had her suspicions, but Humphress wasn’t too concerned.

“I’ve never really lived my life hiding from people. I’ve always been out there with who I am. But we never were really ones for public displays of affection,” he says.

De la Torre, born of Cuban parents, was a little more taciturn. Though the couple shacked up a month after meeting, his family didn’t find out about his sexuality until 18 years into their relationship.

“Then we went to a wedding in January, and he met my whole family, and they were all warm and welcoming and, like, who really cares? So that was a shock,” he says. “I was feeling the pressure, and they were very accepting.”

Humphress continued growing his software company (which he is not willing to name for this story, because many of his clients are churches), while de la Torre took a job at Disney. The couple relocated to the Orlando area in 1995, though they retain a home on the beach. They’ve since been officially married, on July 15, 2010, in Washington, D.C., in a private ceremony. The certificate hangs on their wall.

Following his Disney stint, de la Torre took another job before joining his partner in the software company; the COBRA insurance plan he signed them both up for translated into a genuine health insurance plan that they both currently “pay through the nose” for, according to Humphress.

That’s important, because Humphress, a small-business owner without company insurance, has a pre-existing heart-valve condition due to a bout with rheumatic fever as a child. They’ve been to the hospital before, and de la Torre worries about whether the next checkup will be “the one.”

“The term, sometimes, when they ask questions – I don’t like when they ask, ‘So, you’re a homosexual?’” he says. “Just the way the tone is, that really just annoys me sometimes. It’s not a friendly thing. What does that do? Does it put me in a different class or something?”

Since the wedding, Humphress has checked the “married” box on census forms, because “he’s my husband,” he says. They balance each other out, like Walt and Roy Disney: a dreamer and a doer, with Humphress as the former. But Humphress’ dreams of full equality are duly tempered.

“It’s never going to go far enough,” he says, referring to the registry to which they’ll be one of the earliest signees. “If that’s what we’re holding out for, then you’re never going to get anywhere. You have to make small steps. I guess the mayor could start handing out marriage licenses, but they wouldn’t mean anything.”

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