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Group wants 'I do' for same-sex couples, too

Lorna Bracewell, left, of St. Petersburg and other members of Impact Florida plan to rally outside Gov. Charlie Crist’s wedding.

CHRIS ZUPPA | Times

Lorna Bracewell, left, of St. Petersburg and other members of Impact Florida plan to rally outside Gov. Charlie Crist’s wedding.

The union of Lorna Bracewell and her partner of three years had all the trappings of a wedding.

Bracewell's mother fretted over niceties like chair covers. They coordinated their outfits — hippie-inspired dresses — and daydreamed like most smitten, engaged couples of Christmas cards sent from the "both of us."

"We wanted to spend the rest of our lives together," said Bracewell, 25, of her May 2007 commitment ceremony.

So the Tampa Bay singer/songwriter was devastated when Florida voters approved Amendment 2, changing the state's Constitution to ban same-sex marriage.

"It made me feel like my life was pretend in some way," Bracewell said. "And it's really not."

Since then she has made her first foray into activism, becoming the unlikely spokeswoman for Impact Florida, a newly formed local grass roots organization committed to attaining marriage equality for all Floridians.

The group's latest and most-highly publicized event is a protest outside Gov. Charlie Crist's wedding Friday, easily the most-anticipated wedding of the year.

Bracewell said the timing is poetic.

"Crist was an outspoken proponent of Amendment 2, which deprived millions of Floridians from getting married," she said. "And now he's going to exercise that same right that he's just voted to deny."

Impact Florida was born out of a Nov. 15 national protest against Proposition 8, a California ballot question approved by voters defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. The protest was spurred by a largely Web-based national gay and lesbian advocacy initiative called Join the Impact.

Locally, a protest took place at Mirror Lake in St. Petersburg that drew about 300 people. Participants decided to continue their push for rights with Impact Florida. It is largely made up of Tampa Bay residents, but maintains a loose statewide membership and communicates mainly through an online social network (impactflorida.ning.com).

The group already has received attention from The Oprah Winfrey Show and Larry King Live.

On their Web site, members are offering beds to those coming in from out of town for Friday's protest, which will feature hot pink T-shirts and large stickers that read "Congrats Gov.: When Can I get married?"

Crist said last week he had no opinion about Impact's plans. "They have a First Amendment right to do so," he said.

Organizers vow it will be a peaceful event, and as long as protesters do not hinder pedestrian or car traffic, they do not need a special permit, according to St. Petersburg police.

The demonstration will begin at Williams Park across the street from the First United Methodist Church where Crist and his fiancee, Carole Rome, will be married. Then protesters will walk to North Straub Park and hold a candlelight vigil at the Arbor, across the street from the Renaissance Vinoy Resort, where the reception will be held.

"I'm mourning the loss of my right to get married," said Larry Smith during an Impact Florida meeting Saturday. He is one of the group's founders.

"I've been with my partner for nine years," said Smith, 45, who owns a production company in St. Petersburg. "How can anyone tell someone they can't love?"

With less than a week till the protest, sign making and phone tree duties were divided among the 40 who met Saturday.

But not every Impact member agrees with the protest.

"It's not respectful to two people who want to get married," said Dr. Karen Reese, a chiropractor in St. Petersburg who was at Saturday's meeting. "If you were getting married, would you want a bunch of protesters standing outside?"

But Bracewell hopes it will show that the gay and lesbian community isn't that different.

"Our goal is to show we're all just as boring as straight people," she said. "We all just want to get married and watch 60 Minutes on Sunday night."

Times staff writers Jennifer Liberto and Stephanie Garry contributed to this report.

Group wants 'I do' for same-sex couples, too 12/06/08 [Last modified: Monday, December 8, 2008 11:19am]
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