The story of the life and love shared by Thomas Lee Bridegroom and Shane Bitney Crone resonates with me to this day. I learned of their life together and the tragedy that befell them in viewing It could happen to you, the YouTube video produced by Shane Bitney Crone in memory of Thomas Lee Bridegroom, who died in a tragic accident on May 7, 2011. Though I do not know either of these men, I was so moved in a way that I normally am not upon hearing of a personal tragedy that strikes people who are strangers to me. Watching It could happen to you had a profound effect on me; I felt grief and outrage well up inside me upon learning of the injustice and iniquity that was heaped on Shane Bitney Crone following the death of his partner, Thomas Lee Bridegroom. As same sex couples could not marry in California at the time of Tom’s death, Shane had no legal standing as Tom’s partner and could do nothing as the Bridegroom family claimed Tom’s body, his assets and barred Shane from attending his funeral. This is so wrong and it happens to other couples. From the grief and outrage I experienced I was inspired to join in the effort to advocate for full civil rights for gay people, marriage rights in particular.
I am in a Common-Law marriage with Mika, my companion of these past sixteen years. We are fortunate that in Canada our relationship has the same legal standing as those of heterosexual couples. In spite of this, we have taken care to see that our legal and financial affairs are in order. For most of our life together we kept the truth of our relationship a secret from all but a few close friends and family. I had half-convinced myself it was easier to remain what I thought at the time was a member of an invisible minority. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” seemed quite reasonable to me. After all, why risk making heterosexual friends and acquaintances uncomfortable in disclosing the truth? This is what I kept telling myself, though all the while it bothered me that I was concealing the truth. This changed in 2012, once and for all, when inspired by Shane’s YouTube video I said “damn the torpedoes” and came out once and for all. As it turns out, none of our friends and acquaintances were bothered in the least in learning the truth. In fact, they are all very accepting and happy for us.
When I learned that the television producer Linda Bloodworth-Thomason contacted Shane and together they embarked on a project, to produce a feature length documentary film telling the story of Thomas Lee Bridegroom and Shane Bitney Crone, I happily contributed in the fund raising effort on Kickstarter. The documentary, Bridegroom A Love Story, Unequaled, had its premiere screening at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 23, 2013. How I wish I could have attended the screening, but it was not until the release of the documentary on DVD that I finally viewed it. It is exceptionally well made. I published a review you can read here. Bridegroom A Love Story, Unequaled recently won the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Documentary adding to the array of awards it has received which include the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the Tribeca Film Festival (2013), the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the Toronto Inside Out Festival (2013), the Award for Outstanding Documentary Feature at the Outfest Los Angeles LGBT Film Festival (2013), and the Audience Award of Best Documentary at the Little Rock Film Festival (2013).
Following the premiere screening of Bridegroom A Love Story, Unequaled in 2013, there were exciting developments in the drive for marriage equality in the United States. The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) handed down rulings on June 26, 2013 concerning marriage equality in law for same sex couples at the federal and state levels. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the law which prohibited the federal government from recognizing same sex marriages, was declared unconstitutional and the court refused to hear the appeal of Proposition 8 in California, the ballot measure that changed the California Constitution to add a new section 7.5 to Article I, which reads: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” Proposition 8 was declared unconstitutional by a lower court, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in 2012 and the government of California chose not to defend the law on its appeal to SCOTUS. Consequently, a majority of the Justices refused to hear the appeal on the grounds the appellants did not have the constitutional authority, or legal standing, to defend the law in higher courts after the state refused to appeal its loss at trial.
Despite the gains in marriage equality in the United States, there remains vehement opposition from the ranks of the religious and socially conservative elements of US society as is evidenced in the passage into law on May 8, 2012 of the ballot initiative in North Carolina, Amendment 1, which defines marriage in the state constitution as between one man and one woman. This will likely be declared unconstitutional when challenged in the courts, but the sentiment behind its passage will be harder to overcome. The drive for marriage equality continues and the life and love shared by Thomas Lee Bridegroom and Shane Bitney Crone, documented in the film Bridegroom A Love Story, Unequaled, contributes to the effort in a most affirming and moving fashion. I continue to feel a touch of sorrow that Thomas Lee Bridegroom suffered a tragic and untimely death leaving the love of his life, Shane Bitney Crone, to endure the injustice and iniquity that followed. At the same time, I am heartened that so many people are celebrating the life and love of Thomas Lee Bridegroom and Shane Bitney Crone and are becoming more accepting of marriage equality.
#Tap Tap Tap to you all on this day of May 7, 2014.
Posted by Geoffrey and Mika