For young LGBT people, this June being the 45th anniversary of the Stonewall riots makes the gay rights movement seem like it’s been going on forever.
However, for many LGBT couples in the community, their stories start way before. Mary Maguire and her wife, Jackie Emmett, have been a part of each other’s lives for 52 years. To celebrate their long-term love, as well as many others in the South Florida community, they’ll be participating in the Stonewall Pride parade on June 21.
“At a time when there is so much movement on the marriage equality front, it’s especially meaningful to take a moment and celebrate couples whose commitment and example has provided significant influence for the societal shift on same sex marriage,” said David Jobin, executive director of the Stonewall National Museum & Archives.
This is the third year that the Luminary Couples of South Florida have participated in the Stonewall Pride Parade — first riding in vintage cars, then in creative, themed floats. This year’s theme is anniversaries, and with their name being the luminaries, “we’re going to light that sucker up,” Maguire said.
Originally, the luminaries were a group that brought together LGBT couples who have been together for 20 or more years. To include more couples, they lowered the threshold to 10 or more.
“It’s important that everybody, both gay and straight, understand that gay couples can have solid relationships,” said Maguire, who has been with Emmett for 52 years this September. “I won’t tell you that we’ve never had an argument, or that either one of us have ever lost their temper over anything.”
Maguire met Emmett when the two were roommates at Naval boot camp in Great Lakes in 1962. Not only was it hard to be a woman in the military, being a gay woman in the military was a whole other story. Through their ups and downs — including Emmett marrying a man to please her family — last September, the two finally tied the knot in New Hampshire in a small ceremony.
While they’ve been together for the longest, other couples in the group are not far behind, celebrating decades of unwavering devotion and love. With more states recognizing same-sex marriage, many of them have finally been able to make their relationship legal.
“We’ve always shown respect for each other and you can’t get to these numbers of years unless you do just that,” Maguire said.
The Stonewall Pride Parade is June 21 and starts at 7 p.m. The route starts at the south end of Wilton Drive at Fort Lauderdale High School, continuing up to Five Points at Dixie Highway. For more information, visit StonewallPrideWiltonManors.com. For more information the luminary couples, visit LuminaryCouples.org.