WASHINGTON, D.C. — The cherry blossoms began to bud along the Tidal Basin, a splash of pink consolation for Keith Bucklew and Mark Anderson, whose home state did not allow them the legal right to get married.
Instead, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor welcomed the couple to wed in her Capitol Hill office. Keith's former sister-in-law, U.S. District Judge Susan Bucklew, officiated Thursday.
The ceremony that morning, the first wedding to take place in Castor's office, seemed surreal.
"I grew up with a very conservative world, which means Tampa," Keith said. "For me to even think that at the age of 70 I would be flying off to Washington, D.C., to be married to another gay man is beyond my imagination."
The game-changer was the Supreme Court's ruling in United States vs. Windsor overturning the Defense of Marriage Act last summer. As a result, Mark and Keith's marriage is federally recognized even though they live in Florida, which bans same-sex marriage.
"The landmark case conferred all relevant federal legal rights and benefits to same-sex marriage even in states where it is not yet legal," Mark said. As treasurer of Equality Florida, he is involved in six freedom-to-marry lawsuits that the LGBT rights group helped to file.
A well-known interior designer, Keith grew up in Tampa, where he has styled residential and commercial interiors for more than 30 years. Recent notable Bucklew Designs projects include Bern's Steak House and the Hillsborough County Bar Association building.
A Wall Street executive, Mark visited siblings in the bay area often enough to buy a South Tampa condo as a second home. Later, after retiring as chief technology officer at Credit Suisse First Boston, his Manhattan apartment became the getaway pad.
Mark, 58, was still new to town when he happened to chat with a friend of Keith's at a party.
"She asked if I was interested in meeting someone," Mark said. "Then he didn't call right away, so she kept threatening to give my number to someone else."
That did it. Keith called in June 2007, insisting on cocktails at Mise en Place that night. Drinks turned into dinner, then an art show in Ybor City the next evening.
Love grew gradually, Mark said. "I'm not a sweep-me-off-the-feet kind of person."
Shared enthusiasm for the arts, travel and public service, often in combination, strengthened the match. Trips to South America, Europe and Asia immersed them in museums and markets. Works of local artists fill their home, many met while serving on the boards of Tampa Museum of Art and the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts (Mark) and Tampa Theatre and the Hillsborough County Arts Council (Keith).
Overseeing reconstruction of a rotting circa 1950s house on the edge of the Palma Ceia golf course cemented the relationship, and eventually led to other real estate projects. The neglected residence was torn down to the frame and meticulously rebuilt on the same footprint.
Such an undertaking would test any couple. But arguments were rare and the stunning renovation is now their home.
"We did a lot together, many things separately," said Mark, who managed electrical, plumbing and audio-video installations and left the aesthetics to Keith.
"We basically agree on all the major things," Mark said.
That's the blueprint for a perfect marriage, even if the state of Florida doesn't think so.
Amy Scherzer can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3332.