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Marriage Equality: One Man's Story

A documentary short, “Marriage Equality: Byron Rushing and the Fight for Fairness," takes a compelling look at the events surrounding the fight for marriage equality in Massachusetts.

At the center of the story is Representative Byron Rushing, a veteran of the Civil Rights Movement who took the campaign into African American communities. The film also features people like David Wilson (pictured here), who have been very personally and tragically impacted by unequal and inadequate protections.

Wilson tells the heartbreaking story about the death of his then-partner who he found lying in the driveway. Wilson was arrested by the police on suspicion of breaking and entering or assault and battery. His neighbors had to convince the police otherwise. It was only after his partner’s 75-year-old mother told the hospital who Wilson was that they informed him that his partner of 13 years was dead on arrival. He vowed that he would never go through this again.

In 2003, Wilson and his current partner became one of the seven same-sex couples to sue for and win the ability to marry in the 2003 landmark Goodridge vs. the Department of Health case.

In a moving statement, Wilson said:

I was married to a woman, had three beautiful children and finally came to terms with being gay at the age of 37. My ex-wife and three teenage children supported my coming out process as did my mother and father. My mother met with her pastor to ask for his support and to also ask that he stop preaching hatred from his pulpit. My mother and father had been a member of their Black church for over 40 years but the pastor said he could not support her or me. My mother was forced to leave her church because she could not bear the hurtful messages delivered every Sunday.

When my mother had a heart attack 15 years later with five subsequent congestive heart failures, she came to my house for her final 11 weeks under hospice care. She asked me to call her home church Pastor to ask him to come and [have] prayer with her. He refused and sent his associate pastor. When my mother passed away, she wanted to be buried from her home church but her pastor agreed to the funeral but refused to allow me to deliver my mother’s eulogy. After an all-out effort by my mother’s flower club, deaconess board and ladies club, he reluctantly agreed that I could deliver the eulogy from the lowest of the three pulpits, which I was willing to do for my mother.

After my mother’s funeral, my dad never went back to his or any church with the exception of the day that he attended my legal wedding to my husband, Rob Compton. Dad was 89 and could not have been more proud of our role as plaintiffs in the Massachusetts marriage law suit which resulted in the right for us to marry.

In summary, I say to you that I feel half-married. Rob and I have the legal rights that marriage affords us only in the State of Massachusetts. We now have five adult children and seven grandchildren that live in five states across the country. When we leave Massachusetts we have no legal right to be there for each other in a crisis. Three of those states actually have constitutional bans against a marriage between two men or two women.

We ask for your support in the passage of the Marriage Equality bill in NY and your continued support for all gay and lesbian couples that need and have earned as American citizens the 1100 benefits, both legal and financial, at the federal level."

Read Wilson's full statement here.

GLAAD is working with the newly formed coalition New Yorkers United for Marriage to media train couples to share their stories of love and commitment with the media, their communities, families and friends.

Our next training is in Rochester, N.Y. Click here for more information.