Christopher (left) and Bob, who have been together since 1991, relish the relative normality of their lives. It’s a long way from the way it was just 25 years ago, and they still seek equal rights under the law.
Bob: We got together in ’91, when we were on the road in South Pacific. I’m a violinist and Christopher is an actor. In the theater, most people are very outgoing, but those of us in the pit can be a little quieter, so it’s a bit like two different worlds. Backstage I’d see him harassing everybody in the dressing rooms, teasing and bantering back and forth, and he won me over: I found him very entertaining! And it was fun, sitting in the pit, to look up on stage and see him playing Lieutenant Buzz Adams flying in on his jet plane as we were sawing away down there.
Christopher: After doing the South Pacific tour, we then toured with Kiss Me Kate. So we were still traveling around the country and certain states or towns were not gay friendly at all, and we were aware that by being in the same bed we were breaking laws.
Bob: It wasn’t that long ago. A few years ago when I was in Cincinnati on a tour, we were there for a few weeks and there were all these demonstrations right in downtown Cincinnati, about how we’re going to burn in Hell and there was this whole, “Fags! Gays! Burn in Hell!” right at the theater where we were performing. It was 2004, around the presidential election, right before Bush was about to be reelected, so things were pretty charged, especially in Ohio.
I’m really not that thick-skinned and I find it frustrating and upsetting that there would be people out there who feel this way about us and our relationship and yet they don’t even know us. A lot of people use religion as a way to say the Bible says this and that. In my mind they pick and choose what to believe. Of course, it’s their religion and this is a free country and I think that they do have a right to believe that. But I don’t see why they feel they have the right to deny us equality.
Christopher: It doesn’t impact their day-to-day life, so what does it matter to them?
Bob: We think about that kind of stuff a lot. I mean, what if something should happen to us, if one of us ends up in the hospital, in terms of visiting or getting in there? All it takes is for somebody who has another agenda to say, “No, you can’t see each other, you don’t have that right.” What do we do? Even with a Civil Union, we have to carry around a piece of paper, which I’m told in other places, like New Jersey, doesn’t always work.
And not having the support of the community is also very frustrating. As a violinist, I’ve played at a lot of weddings in my day, and I’ve heard marriage vows many times. When the congregation and the people in attendance are asked if they will support this couple, I think how there are people out there actively trying to rip Chris and me apart; I just don’t get it. I don’t see how our relationship impacts their lives.
Christopher: I used to work with a woman who had four children from three different men, and that was fine, she got health care for her kids and whoever she was with at the time. I still can’t get Bob on my health insurance and I’ve been with my company for a long time.
Bob: I have the musicians union health insurance, and thankfully the musicians union would let Chris on, which was great, but his plan is much better and I still have to buy my own hospitalization. It doesn’t really make sense. I met with some members of our State legislature staff, back in 2006, up in Putnam County where our house is, speaking about this very issue, about marriage equality, and I remember an official saying, “Well, for a couple of thousand dollars, you can draw up some legal documents and stuff,” and I’m thinking, “But why should I have to spend a couple of thousand to try to protect myself?” It doesn’t seem fair to me, and when I pushed this -- and this was not our State senator, but it was by someone in his office -- I was told, “Maybe you should move to Massachusetts.”
Christopher: Bob’s very politically active. I am, too: that’s all I watch on TV and all the websites I go to are political websites, but he’s actually treasurer of Putnam County Democrats.
Bob: In some ways Chris is much more politically aware than I am, especially nationally. He follows a lot more of the news and can name this representative from Michigan and that one and this one, and I kind of get lost. I tend to be much more involved locally; I’m fairly involved with the Democrats there, mostly because I do believe in the Democratic party’s values and the core principles even if they shouldn’t be discriminating against people like us.
But I also like to think that things will change, that it’s a generational issue. Younger people tend to have much less of a problem with gay marriage and tend to be very supportive of it.
It’s frustrating feeling like we still have so little, but then I think back to 1980, when we were coming out, and how very different it was then. I mean, I wouldn’t have even thought of the possibility of gay marriage; I was just hoping for some tolerance and maybe a place at the table.
Christopher: And that we weren’t going to get beat up when we walked down the street.
Bob: I remember when Clinton was elected, I was just frankly thrilled that he got up there and talked about gay rights and made us human. He acknowledged us, that we exist and we’re people and we have rights -- Reagan never said anything and he swept the whole AIDS thing under the carpet for so long. So as angry as people might get with Clinton for Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and DOMA [Defense of Marriage Act], I think he made some huge changes by just including us in the dialogue.
I guess what I would love people to know is that we are just like other people, and that we care – we don’t only care about the Gay Agenda. To me, there are as many gay agendas as there are gay people. That’s what frustrated me most when I was coming out and I’d read things that said you have to live in the gay ghetto, in the Village, that you need The Gay Community ... that was probably the reality of the time, but it isn’t now and I think it’s great to be able to be just another person involved in your community. I’m involved with many organizations, but it’s more local stuff, upstate, because I care deeply about the environment there. Whether we direct the local theater or are involved in politics, we want to be active and move things forward. We both feel strongly about that.
Zina Saunders 2014