Ending Anita: When ordinary people do extraordinary things

EndingAnitaOn April 1, 2014, Aaron Huntsman and Lee Jones, a couple of Key West bartenders, challenged the State of Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage when they applied for a marriage license at the office of the Monroe County Clerk. This led to a lawsuit, Huntsman v. Heavilin, and a decision (July 7), by Monroe County Circuit Judge Luis Garcia, striking down Florida’s anti-gay marriage ban. Though the State appealed, Huntsman and Jones (along with other couples) eventually prevailed, and the two men married on January 5, 2015. The couple’s victory proves once again that many of the victories in the struggle for LGBT rights were achieved by “ordinary” men and women who experienced injustice in their lives and did something extraordinary to correct it.

Someday, a scholarly book will be written about Huntsman v. Heavilin and its impact on the rights of queer people in the United States. But this is not the time. Instead, we have Ending Anita: How Two Key West Bartenders Won Gay Marriage For Florida by Anthony Adams “for Aaron Huntsman & Lee Jones” who asked Adams to write their story. Anthony “Tony” Adams, South Florida Gay News’s other Senior Features Correspondent, spent lots of enviable time at Key West’s world-famous Island House, interviewing Huntsman, Jones, their friends and allies. Adams calls his book “Hot History because I bring the reader into the moments of their court case, without fabricating details (as does historical fiction). Ending Anita is an historical account written to move hearts, entertain, and celebrate humble but heroic people. It will become a great documentary that is in the works once funding is secure.”

After an introductory history of Gay Florida – courtesy of Florida Atlantic University Professor Fred Fejes – and of Gay Key West, Ending Anita breaks off into biographical chapters about Huntsman, Jones, Attorney Bernadette Restivo, Judge David Audlin – who resigned from the bench after his profile was discovered in Manhunt – and friends Mark Ebenhoch, Susan Kent and MiKey Hudson, Tony Cicalese and Brian Steele. Together, this motley crew did more in a few months than well-funded organizations like Equality Florida were able to accomplish in decades. Thanks to Adams’s talent, these folk come across as very likeable people – especially Huntsman and Jones, who are attractive in all senses of the word – the kind of people the reader would want to spend an afternoon with, sipping margaritas around the pool at the Island House. (Ending Anita also has the text of the Huntsman v. Heavilin lawsuit and a transcript of the circuit court hearing, for those who like this sort of thing.)

Sea-to-sea rainbow flag

Sea-to-sea rainbow flag

“I hope readers will feel as if they were with Aaron and Lee at every step of their way to justice.” Adams tells me. “Anyone can search and find court transcripts, but the real history about this case would be lost unless readers go to know the wonderful people behind the victory.” Ending Anita, in spite of its questionable title – you will have to know who Anita Bryant is to appreciate it – is an essential title for those of us who are interested in Florida LGBT history, not to mention queer Key West. Ending Anita is available on amazon.com for 15 bucks, though Adams will send you a signed copy if you donate $200 to his participation in the Smart Ride from Miami to Key West (thesmartride.org). Though Adams is the author and owner of the book’s copyrights, “I promised Aaron and Lee and Mark Ebenhoch [who dealt with the media on behalf of the couple] that I would donate all profits to their two foundations: … the LoveIsLove Foundation to continue their work with the LGBT community and allies” and to a new foundation “to bring the Sea-To-Sea Rainbow Flag wherever folks fight for LGBT rights and to a permanent home in the Smithsonian.” (The Sea-To-Sea Rainbow Flag is a 1.25 mile flag that in 2003 was unfurled along the entire length of Duval Street, from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean.) Like the Flag itself, Ending Anita “is purely a labor of love.”

Jesse’s Journal
by Jesse Monteagudo



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