Hawaii same-sex marriage pioneer Genora Dancel legally married her partner of 15 years on Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013, 23 years to the day that she and other gay activists had their gay marriages applications rejected at the state Health Department, reports Hawaii News Now:
Dancel, 53, Kathryn Dennis, 43, were married in a short ceremony in the state Supreme Court with Dennis' parents and sister as wedding guests.
On Dec. 17, 1990, Dancel and former partner Ninia Baehr, along with two other gay couples walked into the State Health Department and were denied marriage licenses, starting the battle for same-sex marriage in Hawaii.
"Today we stand and declare our love," Dennis said as she read her vows in Tuesday's ceremony. "Today, we stand before family and a few of our heroes to wed and to receive the respect of our union that you and Dan fought for."
She was referring to Intermediate Court of Appeals Judge Dan Foley.
He married the couple in the same Supreme Court room where he represented those three gay couples in that first fight for marriage equality more than two decades ago.
"I declare, by the virtue of the authority vested in me by the state of Hawaii, that you are now married," Foley said as the wedding came to a close. "You may now kiss your bride."
"We have I don't know how many countries in North America, South America, Europe, Iceland, South Africa, New Zealand, that recognize same-sex marriage, and it all started in this court room 21 years ago," Foley told reporters after the ceremony.
"There's nothing to remember about how hard it was. All the bad went away. And it's just all good now," Dancel said after her wedding.
Dennis said, "I just feel like 'finally!' Because we've been together for 15 years and we asked each other to marry each other way back then and so now we're finally actually really married."
Baxter, 66, and her longtime partner, contractor Nancy Locke, were married in an intimate ceremony on Sunday afternoon in Los Angeles.
Close friends and family—including Baxter's five children—witnessed the couple exchanging handwritten vows.
Baxter and Locke have been together since 2005. This isn't the first time Baxter has tied the knot. She was married three times before—Baxter was wedded to Robert Lewis Bush from 1966 to 1971, to David Birney from 1974 to 1990 and finally to Michael Blodgett from 1995 to 2000.
The mother of five had three children with Birney—Mollie, Kate and Peter—and two with Bush, Eva and Ted.
Baxter came out as a lesbian in 2009, although she has been dating Locke for seven years.
"I feel like I'm being honest for the first time," she told People at the time.
Locke, who is a building contractor, has a band that reportedly played at the wedding reception. The women also wanted to be sure they took the right steps for their first dance and reportedly prepared with lessons before their big day.
"Now I understand why marriage caught on!" Baxter tells People.
Marriage equality in Illinois was signed into law on Nov. 20, 2013, but the law won't go into effect until June 1, 2014. But that's not soon enough for Vernita Gray, 64, a Chicago LGBT rights activist who suffers from life-threatening brain and bone cancer. She wants to marry her girlfriend of five years, Patricia Ewert.
The couple, left, had a civil union celebration on Aug. 13, 2011.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois and Lambda Legal brought the case to court Nov. 22.
“Vernita is terminally ill and she wishes to marry the woman she loves before she dies—and now she won’t have to wait another day,” said Camilla Taylor, Marriage Project director for Lambda Legal. “These two women, who have loved and cared for each other in good times and bad, through sickness and through health, will get to know what it means to be married.”
U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin ordered Cook County Clerk David Orr, a longtime marriage equality supporter, to issue a marriage license to Gray and Ewert.
Their marriage will relieve Ewert from having to deal with estate tax should Gray die. (The basis of the lawsuit of Edy Windsor vs. United States of America, which resulted in the overturning of a key section of DOMA.) This marriage certificate for Gray and Ewert also allows Gray to die with the dignity of full legal recognition of her relationship.
Shane Bitney Crone is a hopeful romantic. His partner Tom Bridegroom was, too. They were hopeful romantics together until one day the unthinkable happened: Tom died. On May 7, 2011, the 29-year-old had a tragic accident and just like that, he was gone. Tom, the man Shane devoted all of his love to and shared all of his deepest secrets and wildest dreams with, was instantly removed from Shane’s life. In addition to this terrible thing, other unthinkable acts took place, including the hurtful behavior of Tom’s family. Because Tom's family would not accept that he was gay and because Shane and Tom were not married, Shane was excluded from the funeral, and he was denied any survivor benefits, despite owning a business and a home with Tom. The two young men shared everything together, saving money wherever they could so they could travel the world. They dreamed of one day becoming legally married when California would once again allow for gay marriage. Tragically, the overturning of Proposition came far too late for Shane and Tom.
On May 7, 2012, the first anniversary of Tom's death, Shane posted a video on YouTube titled "It Could Happen to You." He created it to honor his partner and show the world what can happen when two people committed to each other are legally barred from the rights and protections afforded by marriage. The video had a profound effect and quickly gathered more than 3 million views. (Now it's up to almost 4.5 million.)
The quest to turn it into a documentary rapidly became one of the most funded film projects of all time on Kickstarter. It has garnered attention from a host of celebrities, including Neil Patrick Harris, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Cher. And now that it's attracting viewers from all over, it's even got some titallating Oscar buzz.
I spoke with Shane Bitney Crone, now 27, in a transcontinental phone call—he in Los Angeles, me in Atlanta—and we came together for a discussion about how the movie Bridegroom came to be, moving forward after the loss of a loved one and what it’s like continuously revisiting a painful story.
Only a few weeks after the YouTube video was up, Linda Bloodworth Thomason, the Emmy-nominated creator of TV hits Designing Women and Evening Shade, called Shane. “She convinced me that this was story that needed to be told,” says Shane. “A lot of people don’t know this, but Linda’s mom passed away from AIDS after contracting the illness from a blood transfusion, and she witnessed firsthand the discrimination toward the gay community. This was personal for Linda, and it made me feel comfortable and trust her.”
Shane says that Kickstarter was the “right platform” for raising funds for Bridegroom because “so many people wanted to help.” It easily became “the people’s film” because it really could happen to any LGBTQ American not fortunate enough to live in a state where their marriage is legally recognized and have a supportive family.
The emotional and influential documentary—which Shane tells me took 12 months of working 10-12 hour days for 7 days a week to make—explores the outpouring of feelings that so many people, including Shane but also his family as well as friends that he and Tom shared and Tom’s childhood friends, felt. The film takes the audience through all the heart-shattering emotions that occurred with Tom’s death, Tom’s family’s shunning of Shane and the aftermath of it all. The takeaway—the available talking and thinking points—from the film is enormous. It speaks to being gay and young in America; coming out (or not); marriage equality; and homophobia in families, hospitals, schools and society at large.
Reliving the nightmare that he endured isn’t always easy for him, Shane says. His inspiration to forge on comes from the love he and Tom shared. “Tom always encouraged me to stand up for myself and believe in myself. I didn’t always do that, and I think he would be proud of me. Even though it’s not always easy, I feel like I owe it to him. […] I feel a sense of responsibility to continue sharing as long as it helps people. When I hear from suicidal teenagers who tell me [Bridegroom] gave them hope, I know I’m doing something good. This is bigger than me. This story represents a lot of people. It’s not just about me and Tom.”
Bridegroom’s message isn’t just for the LGBTQ community. It speaks to equality as a human right, which is why Bridegroom won the Audience Award at this year's Tribeca Film Festival, where it was introduced by former President Bill Clinton. Oprah debuted it on television on OWN, and it’s available on Netflix. On Nov. 19, Virgil Films released it for sale on DVD through Amazon and iTunes. (Go buy it now, rate it, review it, help get this important story get out to the masses.)
TALK TO SHANE
On Wednesday, November 20, Shane Bitney Crone will be giving an Ask Me Anything interview on Reddit. Join him at 7 p.m. ET / 4 p.m. PT and ask him anything! Shortly before the AMA interview begins, Shane will post the link to the live thread on Twitter. @ShaneBitney
WATCH THE VIDEO
"It Could Happen to You," Shane Bitney Crone's video that inspired Bridegroom