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23 Years Later, Queer Love Endures in Stunning Photo of Gay Husbands

23 Years Later, Queer Love Endures in Stunning Photo of Gay Husbands

Jim McKenrick and Rick Sanchez

While there’s a lot of tragedy and trauma to go around, here’s a story of enduring gay love. Share your stories and photos with us at


Gay love endures! And we love to see it.

Twenty-three years ago, two men -- one out and one not -- met at a spot they revisited this year as husbands, where they snapped another photo to celebrate their love.

Jim McKenrick and Rick Sanchez didn’t know it yet, but a photo they took on the streets of New Orleans during Southern Decadence would capture the beginning of a long relationship that would see the two raise a daughter together and get married.

This year, the couple recreated that same photo as a reminder of how queer love can endure.

McKenrick's post of that photo in a Facebook group for attendees of Southern Decadence went viral, with hundreds of likes and positive comments celebrating the longevity of their relationship.

“So my husband Rick and I met in NOLA at Southern Decadence on Bourbon Street 23 years ago on Friday, September 1, 2000 (left),” read the post by Jim McKenrick. “Here is a picture of us (right) in the exact same spot where we met 23 years earlier, taken at Southern Decadence 2023. What an amazing 23 years it has been. We are still together and going strong. Love you, and here’s to another 23 years together.”

Each year on Labor Day weekend, the annual Southern Decadence festival in New Orleans brings thousands of people to town for an extravagant time of debauchery that joins together many tourists, allies, and the LGBTQ+ community.

While traveling from New Orleans home to South Carolina by way of a stop in Georgia at the LGBTQ+ Oz Campground near Macon in their RV, McKenrick, 59, explained the importance of the photograph in an interview with The Advocate.

McKenrick was in town from Atlanta and Sanchez from Charleston, and through a mutual friend, the pair met in front of a burlesque shop on Bourbon Street on Friday, September 1, 2000.

“At the time, it was a burlesque shop, and I was coming out of it as Rick was outside on the street, and we happened to bump into each other,” McKenrick said. “So we met there, and then we spent the weekend kind of getting to know each other, spending time together.”

When the weekend ended, McKenrick said the two — married in May of 2017 after marriage equality became the law of the land — didn’t exchange contact information because neither had a cell phone at the time and were not looking for a long-term relationship.

“So we just went, had a great time, enjoyed the weekend, and left the city that Monday morning to head back to two different cities,” McKenrick explained.

He said that about 100 miles outside of New Orleans on Interstate 10, McKenrick and Sanchez, 57, ran into each other on the highway, prompting them to pull over at the next exit.

“That’s where we exchanged contact information,” McKenrick said. “Because I was going to Atlanta, and it turns out he was stopping in Atlanta on his way to Charleston, so he asked if I wanted to get together maybe for dinner or do something, so we literally exchanged information at a gas station off the side of a highway.”

McKenrick said that the two were in touch and started a relationship from that point forward.

“He would travel back and forth from Charleston to Atlanta,” McKenrick said.

Because Sanchez and his second wife had a young daughter, Miranda, with whom he shared custody, he remained living there and saw McKenrick on alternate weekends.

“So that’s what we did until Miranda was five years old,” McKenrick explained, noting that at this point, Sanchez felt comfortable introducing Miranda and McKenrick. “We had been seeing each other long distance for a while.”

Soon, McKenrick moved to Charleston, where they have lived since 2005. The family has a home on their 13-acre property there now.

Miranda, now 29 years old, lives in Denver, McKenrick said proudly.

To celebrate their 20th anniversary in 2020, the couple had planned a trip to Southern Decadence, but the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the event for two years, and concerns over mpox in 2022 delayed their trip.

“So this is the first chance we’ve had to celebrate our 20th anniversary this year,” he said. “We finally made it back in 2023.”

We want to tell more stories of enduring queer love! Share you photos and stories with us: send us one of you and your significant other early in your relationship and another beautiful moment from now. Please email them to with your names, hometown and some details of your story to be featured.

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Christopher Wiggins