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LISTEN: Plaintiff in Massachusetts Marriage Case Reflects on Tragedies, Triumphs

Post submitted by Adam Bradley, HRC Communications Intern

In the nationwide battle for marriage equality, there have been exhilarating highs and painful lows—and David Wilson has experienced no shortage of each.

Wilson—who was one of six plaintiffs in the 2004 lawsuit that legalized marriage equality in Massachusetts—spoke with StoryCorps about the daunting barriers facing same-sex couples just a decade ago, and the satisfaction in seeing so many fall so quickly.

When Wilson’s partner Ron Loso suffered a heart attack in 1994 and was rushed to the hospital, Wilson was not allowed to visit Ron or receive information about his condition, because their home state of Vermont did not recognize their relationship.

He recalls, “They called my partner’s 75-year-old mother who lived in Vermont, and she gave them permission to tell me his condition. They told me that he had suffered a massive heart attack and was dead on arrival.”

“I had never considered the problem with relationship rights until that moment,” Wilson continues. “I had a lot to think about.”

Following the sudden loss of his partner, Wilson joined a support group called Gay Fathers of Greater Boston, where he met Rob Compton, a dentist who had been fired after coming out as gay. Wilson and Compton fell in love, and held a commitment ceremony—the best they could do at the time.

“Lots of people came and thought it was our wedding,” Wilson recalls. “We said, ‘No, this isn’t a wedding, because we don’t have the right to get married.’”

When Wilson and Compton heard about a lawsuit in nearby Massachusetts to challenge the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, they were eager to get involved. Wilson, however, remembers his father voicing some concerns.

“My dad wasn’t sure,” he says. “All of a sudden his only son is going to become this prominent, out, gay black man. So I talked with Dad about some of the issues. A couple hours later Dad said, ‘You’re doing the right thing.’”

We all know how the story ends, of course—Massachusetts now recognizes same-sex marriages, as do 15 other states and the District of Columbia. But Wilson’s story had one more chapter, and it would be the happiest one yet. Wilson and Compton became one of the first same-sex couples to be married in the United States on May 17, 2004.

“[My dad] got a new suit, came down…he was in the front row when we walked down the aisle,” remembers Wilson. “Both his arms were in the air. He was 89 at that point. And he didn’t see it just for gay people, he saw it for, you know, all people that had been discriminated against. And his whole life he had been discriminated against. So I think, for Dad, it was just a victory that he could be a part of.”

“He could not have been more proud. It was a great day.”

 You can hear David Wilson’s complete story on below.

 To find out your state’s policies on everything from relationship recognition to workplace discrimination to adoption, click here. To learn more about the Human Rights Campaign’s Healthcare Equality Index, which is transforming LGBT healthcare nationwide even in states without marriage equality, visit www.hrc.org/hei.

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