After 12 years together, Miami couple plans to run to courthouse if marriage ban lifted

Domestic partners wait anxiously for Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel

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MIAMI - Diana Sempere and her partner of 12 years, Quiana Balaez, have their sneakers ready.

If Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel allows County Clerk Harvey Ruvin to issue same-sex marriage licenses, they are running to the nearest courthouse.

Florida Attorney Pam Bondi promised to defend the ban. They are one of the many couples who plan to rush their weddings before any appeal is filed.

"We thought about going to New York to get married, but it doesn't make sense," Sempere said. "They are not recognizing those marriages either. We need our legal rights here in Florida."

It has been almost two weeks since Sempere and Balaez dodged strangers' piercing threats outside of the civil courthouse on Flagler Street. About 340 people packed two courtrooms and waiting halls. Police officers were not allowing anyone in.

Christian pastor Luis Lopez, 69, of Hialeah Gardens, was also outside. He and other religious protesters said they view same-sex couples as "an abomination." They said they were there to remind Zabel that voters had already decided not to lift the ban.

"Change your ways. Jesus loves you," a woman said. "Say no to homosexuality, you all are going to hell,"  a man said.

Sempere, 29, and Balaez, 28, shunned them.

"They were aggressive," Sempere said. "They find us evil."

Lesbian couples scandalize South Florida society as much as biracial couples did during segregation or more, Balaez said in tears.

"Their words felt like a punch to the face," Balaez said.

Sempere said she was unhappy when she attempted to go against her nature.  She was a student at St. Brendan High School, a private Roman Catholic school in Westchester.

Once other students had the courage to "come out," Sempere considered dating. She set up an online profile and selected "bisexual" as her sexual preference.

Balaez, who was a student at Coral Gables High School, liked Sempere's profile. They communicated for months before they went out on their first date to the movies in Coconut Grove. Sempere wore high-heels. Balaez wore sneakers.

"My life began to make sense," Sempere said. "Falling in love was the best feeling in the world."

When Balaez told Sempere that she wanted to join the military, Sempere was devastated. She was crying when she told her mom that she was afraid that the love of her life was going to die overseas. She told her she was in love with a woman.

"She asked me not to tell my dad, but I eventually did," Sempere said. "We don't have secrets anymore."

It has been an unyielding battle. Sempere's Facebook status says she is in a domestic partnership. Sempere said she worries about property rights, filing taxes together, hospital visitations and having a family. Balaez said she is more concerned about their families' approval.

"Sometimes our family introduces us as friends," Balaez said. "I don't correct them out of respect. I respect them. But it hurts me. That hurts me."

Without signs of affection in public, they said they avoid making relatives uncomfortable and strangers' grossly stares. But they plan on making an exception to the rule on the day of their wedding.

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