Independent Living Facility in Wilton Manors First in South Florida To Cater to Gay Men

"When I walked into it, I knew that it had such potential," says the owner of Secret Garden

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    Secret Garden in Wilton Manors is the first independent living facility in South Florida that caters to gay men. Owner Tom Duffy spoke with NBC 6's Christina Hernandez about the place. (Published Tuesday, March 26, 2013)

    At first glance, it looks like a relaxing oasis. Inside, it resembles a vacation getaway. The place, in Wilton Manors, is called Secret Garden.

    "When I walked into it, I knew that it had such potential," owner Tom Duffy said.

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    Bought as a foreclosure three years ago and now renovated, Secret Garden is an independent living facility in Wilton Manors – the first of its kind in South Florida to cater to gay men.

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    "When gay people go into facilities, the problem is that they have to go back into the closet because they may not be accepted because of the generation ahead of us who are in facilities, they're not as open," Duffy said.

    On Tuesday and Wednesday, the Supreme Court is hearing two cases on whether or not it should be legal for gay people to get married – not only in California, but in the rest of the country. It's something the gay community in Wilton Manors is paying attention to.

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    "Tom's providing a space for folks who in most cases wouldn't have anywhere to go and would have to go into a facility that may not be accepting of their lifestyle," said Chris MacLellan, coordinator of senior services with Sun Serve.

    MacLellan has been fighting for gay rights his entire life. This week, he hopes to win the fight against gay marriage opponents.

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    "Our needs are starting to be recognized and as we age, we all want to be safe and being recognized as partners brings in that safety net that we're not going to lose our benefits. We're not going to lose our home. We have people who are going to care for us," MacLellan said. "We just want the same equal rights as the next person."

    For Duffy, the Secret Garden on Northeast 23rd Street isn't just a dream come to life, but hope it changes the way the gay community is looked at and accepted in the future.