Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Tipton Same Sex Marriage

Our wedding announcement in the local newspaper - the first same sex wedding announcement in this newspaper -  bravo to the Cape Gazette for having the courage to print it

On July 3rd, 2013 I got married.  This is my first marriage.  I also believe this is the first same sex marriage of a Tipton.  If not, then someone please correct me.

I married my longtime partner, William Daniel Kelly.  July 3rd was a significant date for us.  We met on a July 3rd in 1964 at the Westbury Bar in Philadelphia, PA.  Yes, we've been together 49 years.  It was about time we got married. 

Bill and Ron 1964
Bill and Ron 2013

I was privileged to ask to testify before both the Delaware state house and senate as to why I believe that Bill and I should be accorded the same dignity, rights and benefits that other Americans have received since the founding of this country.
Me in the back with other folks waiting to testify on behalf of marriage equality in the sate of Delaware
Me on the right - next up!

I'm happy to say that the marriage equality bill passed in both houses!  I'm also proud to say that this Tipton had a part in making history, nothing new for Tiptons.

Me testifying before the Delaware Sate Senate

I came out as a gay man in 1963, a way before it was fashionable or even safe for a gay man to come out.  I decided to come out after I got out of the Army.  Even though I knew I would lose many of my friends and relatives by living openly as a gay man, I decided that I could not live a lie.  And as expected I did lose many friends and relatives who became permanently estranged.  Even writing this blog about the Tipton family, some of the folks of my largely conservative southern base are put off by me living openly as a gay man.

The beautiful North Carolina mountains near Pigeon Roost this spring when we visited
Just this past spring while I was planning on visiting a distant cousin in Pigeon Roost, North Carolina "I have a question to ask you.  Do you practice the gay lifestyle?" At the time I was at a local restaurant with my first cousin Bob Tipton and his wife Marie.  I had made the phone call just to confirm that I would be stopping by his parent's home the next morning.  Of course I was somewhat taken aback by his question.  After a slight hesitation I answered "If you're asking if I'm gay, I am."  He then said "Now you listen to me,  if you step foot on my mom and dad's property you'll have to deal with me!  You got that bud?"  Well, I know a threat when I hear one.  This wasn't the first time I've been threatened just because of who I am (and probably won't be the last time either).  Of course I was hurt. I had probably lulled myself into thinking that even in those mountains and hollers a little bit of acceptance of the diversity of our modern American culture was true.

 Bob and Marie Tipton, my cousin
Bill and me, in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina

Hearing the venom and hate in that question and the threat brought me back to the homophobia that still exists in many parts of this country.  Of course he has a right to who "steps foot on his property" but still I was surprised.  My cousin Bob refused to be intimidated and the next day we still took a ride up Pigeon Roost Road.  We didn't stop in at our cousin's home though.  And I probably will never be back in that area of the country in my lifetime. I've dealt with this kind of hate and ignorance for most of my 71 years, I'm making every attempt to make my remaining years on this earth as peaceful as possible.  However, I will never deny who I am just to make someone else feel comfortable.
(where my father was born and grew up until he left home at ten years of age), I was challenged with the question from my distant cousin the day before I was to meet with his parents:  He said

I had the chance to personally thank Delaware governor Markell for his bold and courageous support of marriage equality in Delaware.

Me thanking Governor Markell for his support

Tiptons throughout American history have stepped up to the line and fought for freedom and equality.  Just count me as one more Tipton who is doing the right thing.

Me at the Freedom Plaza in Wilmington, Delaware when Governor Markell announced the Marriage Equality Bill

Shortly after the above photo was taken Bill and I left for our annual trip south.  We had a wonderful time except for the visit to Pigeon Roost, North Carolina where I receive the "No Welcome" from my cousin.  

After we returned from our trip both houses of the Delaware state government had passed the Marriage Equality bills.  
Same sex marriages would be legal on July 1st.  Below is a photo taken of my (by Bill) of me filling out the marriage application form at the Sussex County Courthouse in Georgetown.  By the way, have you ever seen so many happy people in one place.  This wasn't Pigeon Roost, North Carolina.

Two happy fellas!