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Honoring Rhode Island Marriage Equality Advocate Patricia Baker

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Providence Journal file photo / Connie Grosch

Marriage equality advocate Patricia Baker died Sunday, August 14, in Rhode Island at the age of 55.

Pat, a corrections officer for more than 30 years, was diagnosed earlier this year with terminal lung cancer. She took every step to put her affairs in order and to take care of her family. Pat and her wife of 6 years, Deborah Tevyaw, were married in Massachusetts, but when Pat called the Social Security Administration to arrange for her survivor benefits to go to Deborah, she was told that her wife was not eligible to receive those benefits.

Patricia shared her story with the Rhode Island State Senate to increase support for marriage equality in her home state. She testified, “It is Rhode Island’s time to do the right thing.” In asking for support for marriage equality, Patricia urged that it grow from Rhode Island all the way to Washington, to ensure her ability to care for her family. “I hope I will live to see this dream come true: When my wife is provided for by the Social Security system, under her survivor benefits, when all is said and done, I am truly prepared to die, and I will die in peace.”

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Speaking with the Providence Journal, Pat’s wife Deborah shared, "I'm so devastated and so heartbroken. I lost my best friend, my partner, my confidant, and my wife, and she died without her wish." Deborah promised to continue the work Pat began, saying, “I know it's a long, hard road, but I don't think anybody should tell anybody [else] who they should love. I don’t know what’s ahead of me, but I’m willing to fight it.”

Martha Holt, chair for Marriage Equality Rhode Island issued a statement, “Pat Baker personified courage and demonstrated remarkable strength in her lifetime. Her gentle, determined voice became synonymous with the marriage equality movement, and she demonstrated to all that love truly does make a family.”

GLAAD joins Deborah Tevyaw, Marriage Equality Rhode Island and many others in honoring Patricia Baker’s life and work to achieve full equality.