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COVER STORY

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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“Obviously, being gay you have a certain amount of baggage that isn’t necessarily yours,” Meeks says. “Then, being a couple you have extra baggage. Not only do you have the normal situational issues that average people have, but you have the fact that you’re a gay couple and you have the fact that you’re gay yourself. The fact that someone in a gay couple can be together and be stable for any length of time is remarkable.”

Their relationship has endured, largely because of support from family and friends. When asked, Domenico says he hasn’t seen any situation in his relationship that would be directly affected by the city registry; though Meeks has suffered a brain tumor, Domenico says he’s already filled out the legal papers he thinks he’ll need in case of emergency. Their registry appointment on Jan. 12 will be a symbolic gesture. Unlike the other couples interviewed for this story, Meeks and Domenico haven’t made the journey to other states to codify their relationship as an official marriage.

“Marriage to me is an overloaded term. I don’t think of marriage the way some people do, in the religious construct,” Meeks says. “I think of marriage as equality in the eyes of the laws and the government that we help to support with our taxpayer dollars. I’m a taxpayer just like that guy’s a taxpayer. I’m contributing to a general fund that our government is spending as they see fit. Because of that single thing, constitutionally I should have the equivalent benefits that that guy has or that guy has, regardless of religion.”

Domenico, perhaps a little less practically, is still swept up in the romance of it all, 10 years later.

“From the day that we met, he has challenged me and helped me to go down the right path. Every step he has challenged me to grow and to really step outside of my boundaries,” he says. “He loves me like no one ever loved me. He lets me know every day. It doesn’t have to be a statement. I just know it.”

Like every other happily married couple.

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