This weekend, on Saturday, March 30, Jonathan Franqui and Navy Senior Chief Dwayne D. Beebe hosted their wedding ceremony among all of their loved ones at Old Christ Church in Pensacola, Florida. The couple met in 2011, had an instant connection, and have had a whirlwind romance ever since. They've fallen in love, been accepted into each other's family circles, and got engaged during the San Diego LGBT Pride Parade, the first Pride parade where gay and lesbian service members were authorized to wear their uniforms. Read our previous story on Jonathan & Dwayne HERE.
The wedding ceremony was a true testament to Jonathan and Dwayne's life together. It nodded to key moments in their relationship - their first date, their marriage proposal - and included their friends, family members, and colleagues. It represented the next step in their life together.
Here, they shared 20 photos with us of their big day and explained why marriage matters to them. (Photos by Red Stone Photography)
A Wish from the Past, a Wish for the Future
Before the ceremony, the couple took their wedding party to Plaza Ferdinand Park in Old Pensacola, FL, where Jonathan and Dwayne met for their first date two years ago. "We took photos by the fountain where we met for our first date," Jonathan explained. "It was crazy because everyone there knew how important that fountain was to us. To have all of our friends and family surround us at that very spot where it all started was so cool."
The men made one final wish in the fountain before heading to the church. A wish for their family and future together, framed In a broader wish: That soon, every loving same-sex couple in the country would be able to share in the freedom to marry.
Later, while exchanging vows during the wedding, Jonathan and Dwayne both revealed their wishes from their very first date. "My wish was that I wanted to start a family so that my own family could be proud of me," Jonathan said, describing how his wish has come true: "After I met Dwayne and introduced him to my family, my dad and mom opened up a little more and saw that we were truly in love."
Surrounded by Support
Although Jonathan and Dwayne legally married in Maryland on New Year's Day, they don't consider that day their "true" wedding. This weekend, when they were surrounded by their friends, family members, and Dwayne's fellow service members, standing up in their home community, was the day they felt like they were truly sharing their commitment for each other with the people they love. And though the ceremony was denied legal respect in Florida - and though Florida and the federal government do not respect their Maryland marriage - they look forward to the day when their commitment is not viewed legally as inferior to marriages between different-sex couples.
The wedding party was full of the grooms' brothers, sisters, cousins, friends, and Dwayne's son and daughter. The couple explained in their wedding program notes, "A relationship is a connection between two people - but the others that support and encourage and surround them help that relationship grow and remain strong. ... Historically, marriage is not just a relationship between two individuals recognized by the state - it's also a relationship between those individuals and the rest of society."
A large contingent of Dwayne's colleagues also came to celebrate. Included in the group were nine members of the American Military Partner Association, a network of gay and lesbian service members and their same-sex partners. The members - and the group as a whole - speak out against the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which denies legally married same-sex couples over 1,100 protections and responsibilities of marriage. From survivor benefits to shared health insurance to the ability to file federal taxes jointly, same-sex couples nationwide are hurt by DOMA, a point that AMPA demonstrates clearly by amplifying stories of committed military families denied respect and recognition from the country they serve. Jonathan and Dwayne are just one of the couples hurt by DOMA - because of the discriminatory law, Jonathan is not allowed to take part in programs designed to make military families stronger - like the Military Spousal Jobs Program, which helps military spouses find employment after transfers. Since Dwayne is now stationed in Tennessee, exclusion from the program makes it especially challenging for Jonathan to move with his husband and find employment near Dwayne's new base.
Down the Aisle
Jonathan and Dwayne both walked their mothers down the aisles once in the church. It was important to each groom to share the day with their family members, some of whom have recently grown to understand why marriage matters and fully accept Jonathan and Dwayne's relationship.
"People are coming to support us from all over the country, and it's a wonderful thing," Dwayne said.
Jonathan and Dwayne exchanged their vows, listened as Jonathan's father - who also served in the armed forces - gave him away, took part in a sand-mixing ritual to represent the merging of their lives, and listened as a Navy Chaplain officiated their wedding.
Parading to the Party
The church was on the same street as the reception hall, so Jonathan and Dwayne decided to invite their loved ones to join them in a "second-line parade," a reference to their wedding proposal from last summer, when Dwayne, dressed in his military whites, proposed to Jonathan in the San Diego LGBT pride parade.
They hired a jazz band, who played "When the Saints Go Marching In," and paraded to the Pensacola Chamber of Commerce, where they hosted the reception.
Giving 'Em Hope
The wedding party celebrated for the rest of the night, dancing, laughing, and eating a particularly festive rainbow cake in the beautiful, New Orleans-style reception building.
They danced with their mothers, then danced to their wedding song, "Diamonds," their first dance together as a married couple. Looking back on their wedding, Jonathan and Dwayne reiterate why marriage is so important to them, and what it means to be able to stand before friends and family and commit themselves to each other.
"We were able to show our loved ones that we are committed to each other," Jonathan explained. "We've made a promise to each other about our goals and our future together, and that's important. It's important to have that union recognized in your community, and in your home, and in your family. It's important because marriage is the ultimate commitment you can make to the person that you love, and we want our community to understand how strong our commitment is to one another - how strong our commitment is to the person we love."