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Cover 04/10/2013

'Til Death Do Us Part...

The battle for a statewide domestic-partnership registry isn’t just a policy fight. It’s personal.

Photo: N/A, License: N/A

Photo: N/A, License: N/A

As prior generations learned in other contexts, separate but equal isn’t.

In the abstract, I could comfort myself with the knowledge that time is on my side, that in a generation or two, those who’ve deemed my love for Alan less worthy of legal standing than different-sex relationships will have ended up on the wrong side of history. But here and now, laws have consequences. I lived those consequences, and I struggle to find any comfort.

Nobody likes to talk about death – how ugly it is, how it doesn’t comport with the common parlance of love and life – but given the inherent unfairness that I and countless others have faced, I need to.

I met Alan on Super Bowl Sunday in January 2001 at the corner of the pool bar at the Parliament House. He commented on my eyes, then on his own. “Who do you think has prettier eyes?” he joked. He was a charmer who looked like a black-and-white film star and talked like John Wayne. We started holding hands under the bar after talking for two hours.

After a year of playfully awkward courtship, in May 2002, we moved in together downtown. We shared the bills and opened joint accounts. We formed a life together, having friends around for backyard parties, allowing our outwardly opposing personalities to form a broader united front of happiness.

We were the most conventional of unconventional couples, fighting the normal fights about politics and money, but boosters for each other nonetheless. It was Alan who insisted that I run for interim mayor of Orlando in 2005. He was my campaign treasurer, my coach, my biggest fan.

We used to talk about retiring in Costa Rica – at one point we even put some money down on land there – and we would regularly head to New Orleans so that he could gamble and I could drink (Alan, for most of our relationship, did not drink). But mostly, we lived a quiet life, watching Britcoms on Saturday nights and taking afternoon naps. We were incredibly happy.

On holidays, my family would occasionally visit and take us out to dinner; they seemed to like Alan more than me, really. I always tried to pressure Alan into introducing me to his family in Georgia. But, for reasons likely to do with my gender and his shame – he told me once that he’d undergone reparative therapy to “cure” him of being gay at some point in his childhood – it wasn’t feasible, and I relented. Alan loved his mother deeply. He didn’t want to hurt her. I hated being thought of as something that could hurt her just by existing, but life isn’t always what we want it to be. So he would continue to live a double life.

In 2006, Alan’s prolonged health woes became too much for his heavy work schedule, and he opted for long-term disability. I helped him through the process, and even signed the documents to be his caretaker. He wasn’t outwardly ill, just prone to dizziness and exhaustion, probably from the medication he was taking for a chronic illness. That same year, his father passed. Alan made the decision – against my pleading – to split his time between taking care of his elderly mother in Georgia and being taken care of by me. He would also handle operations, albeit silently, for the family’s textile business. It was a ridiculous juggling act, but likewise a noble one.

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