(The Human Heart, Loch Haven Park, Orlando Fl on Feb. 14 2014 organized by Nicki Drumb and Rachel Gardiner (center).)
Feb. 14, 2008. Rachel Gardiner and Nicki Drumb stand in the Orlando Courthouse, holding hands in front of the clerk as, yet again, they’re refused a marriage license.
“The first year I went to the courthouse, I felt like the clerk across the table was the enemy,” said Drumb. “But that’s a very narrow perspective. They’re just doing their job.”
After facing disappointment, every year they drive over to Loch Haven Park for a peace-out Drumb organizes: The Human Heart. Drumb started The Human Heart in 2008, after Florida passed Amendment Two that defined marriage as between a man and a woman, thereby cutting out the possibility of civil unions or same-sex marriages.
“I just wanted to take a moment to stop being political and angry, because we love each other and that feels great,” said Drumb. “That’s the joy of my life and the lives of so many other people, and for the gay couples who just want to adopt a child, love a child and who can’t do that here.”
The 2008 election buoyed Drumb’s spirits.
“I remember being excited about Obama and the change that was coming for a couple days, but a few days later I was driving somewhere and I had to pull over. I was crying,” said Drumb. “I took it very personally, and I was just so sad about Amendment Two passing. I was surprised, but I guess I really shouldn’t have been.”
At the end of Jan. Drumb decided that she needed to do something. Gardiner supported her. The first Human Heart was planned in about two weeks, and the upcoming demonstration presented Drumb with a mountain of anxiety.
“I remember standing there thinking, nobody’s going to show up. I didn’t advertise it much. It was so fast,” said Drumb. “We ended up having 99 people and two dogs in attendance.”
Both Drumb and Gardiner considered this a success.
Drumb met Gardiner in 2002 at the First Unitarian Church of Orlando during a reading of Lysistrata, an ancient Greek play by Aristophanes in which women withhold sex from men in an attempt to stop a war they find unjust. The reading took place as national protest against the Iraq war.
However, their relationship really started building in 2005 after the attack on a boy who ‘seemed to be gay’ while he was walking down Mills Ave. in Orlando.
“The community was very much outraged by it, and the church ended up helping organize a protest on Valentine’s day and it was called The Love Not Hate March,” said Gardiner. “Nikki and I, like two years after we first met, started e-mailing back and forth about what kind of signs we wanted to make for the march. We were just acting funny and goofy and flirty through e-mail with each other about this march.”
On the day of the march, the two, along with other members of the First Unitarian Church, paraded through the streets of Orlando.
“It became very obvious that this wasn’t just a new friend,” said Drumb. “I was very attracted to her and I kept telling myself ‘Think about why you’re here. People get beat up for this, just for looking gay. Stay where you’re safe’, but then I was just like ‘Oh well, too bad. Beat up, or not I’ve got to do something about this.’ ”
The two grew even closer, spending time in groups at first. They tried to take things slow, with Drumb still unravelling her marriage. However, once the divorce finalized, the couple committed to one another.
“We moved in together pretty much right away. Everything fit so well and everything was perfect,” said Drumb. “A year after that I asked her to marry me and a year after that we got married. We had a ceremony in the church. Marriage wasn’t legal yet.”
However, when New York State legalized same-sex marriage which prompted Drumb to proposed again.
August 6 2011. The two women walked down the streets of Manhattan, loudly proclaiming their love for each other by sporting Bride One and Bride Two shirts handcrafted for the occasion: Drumb and Gardiner are legally married.
“People will tell you that New Yorkers are unfriendly people, and that nobody meets your eyes. That is patently untrue,” said Gardiner. “There was this one guy just as we were coming out of city hall, we were standing at the curb in lower manhattan, very busy, taxi’s rushing around. this guy in a dark suit with a briefcase came to stand next to us at the curb, and he looked over and he saw our shirts. He just nodded and said ‘Congratulations’.”
Originally posted on Miki's personal blog; 19 May, 2015