At about 12:15 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 6, two Key West men whose lawsuit helped pave the way for marriage equality in Florida said “I Do” in the Florida Keys’ first legal same-sex wedding.

Aaron Huntsman (front left) and William Lee Jones (front right) say "I Do" on the steps of Key West's Monroe County Courthouse in the Keys' first same-sex marriage. (Photo by Carol Tedesco, Florida Keys News Bureau)

Aaron Huntsman (front left) and William Lee Jones (front right) say “I Do” in the Keys’ first same-sex marriage. (Photo by Carol Tedesco, Florida Keys News Bureau)

Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones signed and received their marriage license — the first ever issued to a same-sex couple in the Keys — just after midnight at Key West’s Monroe County Courthouse.

Moments later, wearing matching black tuxes and electric blue vests, facing each other and holding hands on the courthouse steps, they were wed in a simple yet moving ceremony before about 500 enthusiastic spectators.

After Aaron and Lee spoke their vows and exchanged handmade silver rings, Rev. Steve Torrence pronounced the words that many thought they would never hear.

“By the power vested in me by the State of Florida, I do now declare that you are legally married,” the reverend said jubilantly.

Aaron (center) and Lee (left) celebrate with supporters after being declared legally married early Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015, in Key West. (Photo by Carol Tedesco, Florida Keys News Bureau)

Aaron (center) and Lee (left) celebrate with supporters after being declared legally married early Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015, in Key West. (Photo by Carol Tedesco, Florida Keys News Bureau)

The spectators, some waving signs supporting marriage equality, erupted in cheers as the new spouses embraced and kissed.

“It’s official — we’re married!” marveled Aaron just after the ceremony. “We’ve been wanting this and hoping for this for such a long time. We felt in our hearts that we had been married since our first year together, and now it’s real — in Florida!”

In July 2014, in response to the couple’s lawsuit protesting Florida’s 2008 ban on same-sex marriage, Florida Keys Judge Luis Garcia issued a landmark ruling stating the ban was discriminatory and unconstitutional.

But a subsequent state appeal derailed all wedding plans — until U.S. Judge Robert Hinkle ruled that Florida’s county court clerks could issue licenses to same-sex couples beginning at midnight Jan. 5.

Lee (right) adjusts Aaron's bowtie during their tux fitting before the wedding. Lee’s shackle bracelet encircles his left wrist. (Photo by Rob O’Neal, Florida Keys News Bureau)

Lee (right) adjusts Aaron’s bowtie during their tux fitting before the wedding. Lee’s shackle bracelet encircles his left wrist. (Photo by Rob O’Neal, Florida Keys News Bureau)

The afternoon before their wedding, Aaron and Lee were fitted for their tuxes at Timmy Tuxedo’s in Key West.

There, Lee spoke about removing an unwanted and highly symbolic article of apparel — a large silver-toned bracelet that completely encircled his left wrist.

“A friend of ours gave it to me the day after we filed our lawsuit, and it’s been shackled on here ever since,” Lee explained. “I call it my shackle of inequality. Tonight at midnight, I get to take it off.”

Shortly after the ceremony, surrounded by friends and supporters on the courthouse steps, he did just that.

“I’m elated, overjoyed, that I finally am legally recognized with the man that I’ve loved for 12 years now,” said an emotional Lee.

Aaron (second from left) and Lee (fourth from right) cheer with their supporters after being declared legally married in Key West. (Photo by Carol Tedesco, Florida Keys News Bureau)

Aaron (second from left) and Lee (fourth from right) cheer with supporters after their historic wedding in Key West. (Photo by Carol Tedesco, Florida Keys News Bureau)

The county clerk’s office in Key West opened at 11:30 p.m. Jan. 5 and, just after midnight, issued nine other marriage licenses to same-sex couples. While other weddings took place in the wee hours of the morning Jan. 6, Aaron and Lee’s ceremony was the first in the county and in the Florida Keys.

Key West has been at the forefront in LGBT issues since the 80s and this is just historical,” said Aaron. “We couldn’t have done it without the support of the community.”

Key West and the Florida Keys have long been recognized as a leading destination for memorable weddings — whether traditional exchanges of vows or unique affairs including underwater ceremonies. Now, with same-sex marriage legal in Florida, the island chain is poised to welcome even more happy couples eager to wed.

For information about getting married in the Keys, click here.