Claudia Thomas & Christa Teno:
Florida Couple’s Marriage in the Great White North Finally Recognized in the Sunshine State
Editors’ Note: This story was written by Meredith Mechanik in partnership with Equality Florida.
Claudia Thomas and Christa Teno got married in the Great White North – Calgary, Alberta, Canada – on July 28, 2013, never expecting that sunny Florida, their home state, would legally recognize same-sex marriage fewer than two years later.
Christa’s sister Paula was already planning her 50th birthday celebration, and since Christa is one of eight, the couple wanted to take advantage of the large family coming together anyway. With Paula’s blessing, they planned a small, meaningful ceremony. Even the mundane details – like signing the marriage license in a strip mall – felt wonderful, with the knowledge that they were finally legally married.
“To this day, Christa says it was the best wedding she’s ever been to,” Claudia said, “and it happened to be our own.”
Although they were on Cloud 9 after getting married, thrilled to celebrate their marriage with friends and family, they have felt a new sense of security and respect since marriages for same-sex couples began in Florida on January 6th.
“I’ve always thought of her as my wife,” Claudia explained, “but now I can call her [that]. The other day I was filling out a form, and I could check ‘Mrs.’ and mean it!”
Uncertain if Florida would ever overturn the ban on marriages for same-sex couples, the Mims, Florida couple – who met in 1988 through a mutual friend – had two separate commitment ceremonies.
Claudia had just started playing golf when she met Christa, a professional golfer and golf coach. “She rescued me from a bad golf game,” Claudia said. “It was pretty rapidly, ‘Oh my god, I love this woman,’ and vice versa; it didn’t take long for us to bond very quickly.”
Describing her wife, a recently retired systems analyst, Christa said, “She’s fun, she’s crazy – nothing is the same. She’s very talented [and] very, very bright. We enjoy each other. It’s pretty easy.”
Their families were on board right away, even in the ‘80s: “There was never any question in our large families that there was going to be that support,” Claudia remembered.
However, outside of their supportive families, they were not always respected as a couple. Customer service situations were especially tricky, when they felt that they had to hide their relationship. “[There was] a situation we had years ago where Christa was treated inappropriately with an insurance claim,” Claudia said. “It was exasperating, it was sad, it had both of us in tears.”
With experiences like that in mind, they now feel much more secure in their ability to go into customer service situations as a married couple and be treated accordingly. Explaining the benefits of having a legally-recognized marriage, Claudia said, “It goes from the really big financial benefits to the more intimate personal recognition that straight couples have taken for granted forever.”
At the end of the day, though, their commitment is to their relationship and each other.
“We’re totally committed to staying together,” Christa said. “Whether we’re legally married or not, it’s just an extra benefit.”
In other words, it’s just icing on the wedding cake.