In April 1993, hundreds of thousands of people took part in the March on Washington for LGBTQ rights. Among them were Nicholas Cardello and Kurt English, a young couple who traveled to the nation’s capital from Florida to participate.
During the march, the couple posed for a loving photo on the National Mall near the Washington Monument. Little did they know, that photo -- in addition to their recreation of it 24 years later -- would cause them to become a viral sensation.
More than two decades after protesting for LGBTQ rights during the March on Washington, the duo headed back to D.C. earlier this month to take part in the Equality March for Unity and Pride. During the June 11 protest march, a friend encouraged them to recreate their 1993 photo.
Cardello posted the new photo next to the original one on Facebook, and the side-by-side image spread like wildfire on social media. As of Wednesday, his post had 8,700 likes and nearly 25,000 shares.
“We could never have imagined the incredible response to this that we received," Cardello told NBC Out on Facebook Messenger. "We were deeply touched by people's personal stories and comments from around the world about the challenges that they experience in their personal lives and in their particular cultures. Many times we have been moved to tears by reading the comments.”
Cardello said the couple's viral Facebook post is unique in that photos of lasting same-sex relationships are rare to see in the media.
“People need to see same-sex couples just being couples. We need to get more images like this out there so the youth today can have positive role models,” he said.
Cardello, now 54, and English, 52, had their first commitment ceremony back in 1993, before same-sex marriage was legally recognized anywhere in the U.S. The couple was then legally married in Massachusetts in 2008, and when same-sex marriage was recognized federally in 2015, they tied the knot that year in their home state of Florida.
“People ask how we lasted for 25 years,” Cardello said. “That is a good question, especially since the structure of our society is set up to pull us apart!”
Over the years, Cardello and English have sought to promote LGBTQ rights and acceptance by being out and proud in their daily lives and by participating in events like 1993's March on Washington and this year's Equality March for Unity and Pride.
“We feel it’s important to represent,” Cardello said. “We also participate to show gratitude to all those who came before us and paved the way for the rights we have today.”