Tom and Neil’s love story is a journey that speaks to the plight of gay and lesbians in America. We can still be fired from our jobs for being gay, we can still lose our housing for being gay yet thankfully we can finally get legally married. The fight is not over. And this is where we come to Tom and Neil, who’ve been together for 23 years and have lived through some incredibly hard discrimination as a gay couple. But they persevered and we are delighted to show you their equally ever after.
Tom and I met 23 years ago here in Cincinnati…We dated for only a few months before deciding that we had found our soul mates. We purchased a house together and moved in during the spring of 1993. It was not an easy time, however, to be a gay couple. We were in love but felt uncomfortable sharing it with anyone, other than very close friends. I remember many Monday mornings at work when colleagues would ask what I did over the weekend. My response was always that I went to a movie with “a friend”, or that I went to dinner with “some friends.” I kept thinking how crazy it was that everyone else was talking about their wife or husband, and using actual names and I only referred to my partner as a friend and never gave him a name. I felt I didn’t have another option, as I was fearful of losing my job, since I worked for a conservative organization in a conservative city.
Tom was not so lucky. He didn’t even have a chance to tell stories about anonymous friends. Shortly after we moved into our house, a jealous colleague at school informed his principal that Tom had purchased a house with another man. Tom promptly lost his job.
We were devastated and afraid that with the loss of income we might also lose our home. It was an incredibly stressful time for us. The pain of the situation was compounded by the fact that I couldn’t tell anyone at work what happened, because then I would be outing myself and risk both of us being unemployed. Fortunately we made it through and were able to continue building our life together.
When we look back on those days, it is so hard for us to believe that we now find ourselves in a world where we no longer have to hide who we are and who we love. We could have never imagined 23 years ago that we would be able to not only talk about our love and life, but that we will actually be able to legally marry and publicly declare our love. We have been so touched by the number of colleagues at both our workplaces who plan to celebrate with us in New York — people who 23 years ago would not have known of our partner’s existence.
Tom and I are thankful to have had such a loving relationship for so many years. We’re proud to now introduce each other as “my husband.”
After 23 years, they were finally wed.
For most of the day, a light and excited happiness permeated everyone’s spirits. I was immediately welcomed by Neil and Tom as we headed to Central Park, and I was warmly introduced to some of their closest friends. The wedding would be a small, intimate gathering and a lunch reception, so it felt very casual. Only occasionally would I glimpse the extraordinary significance of the day.
They tell their story delicately, with humility and gratitude, but when they first fell in love (in 1990s Ohio), their relationship was certainly unwelcomed by many. They both did their best to hide the relationship, but at one point, when Tom’s employers found out he owned a home with another man, they immediately fired him. Having started there, they could not have imagined that a day would come when they would be able to marry — legally, with the blessing of a priest, and with 20 of their best friends in tow.
And yet, here we all were, witnessing the incredible power of love. The weight of the day buckled on Tom as soon as they reached their vows. He was doubled over, emotions sweeping through. Silently, invisibly, I was also doubling over on the inside.
Being a part of Neil and Tom’s beautiful wedding day was truly humbling and an experience I’ll long remember. Thank you both so much for sharing your special day with me.
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