'That Day Wasn't About Us': One Of The 1st Same-Sex Married Couples Looks Back
Fifteen years ago, David Wilson and his husband Rob Compton were one of the first same-sex couples to marry in the U.S.
If it had been up to Wilson and Compton, their union would've been recognized years before that. Frustrated by the injustice, both men became plaintiffs in a lawsuit that led to Massachusetts becoming the first state to legalize same-sex marriage on May 17, 2004.
They married in Boston at City Hall and at their church that same day.
In a StoryCorps interview in March, the couple talks about how, until recently, their relationship carried consequences — if it was acknowledged all.
When they first met, Compton was new to Boston. He moved there after losing his job in Michigan, he says, after coming out at work.
"And so I was looking to meet people, and I stumbled across you," Compton, 69, tells Wilson, 75.
Compton remembers taking interest in Wilson when he started talking about his children.
"Having been married myself for over 20 years and having kids, that's actually one of the things that really attracted me," Compton said.
A first date eventually turned into their moving in together in 1997.
"The first year that we were living together, you woke up at 3 in the morning and had pretty excruciating pain," Wilson said.
He drove Compton to the hospital, the same one where, in 1994, Wilson's former partner had been taken before dying from a heart attack. As Wilson recalled at StoryCorps in 2010, the hospital staff wouldn't disclose information about his partner until they got permission from his partner's mother.
In that respect, not much had changed between the two hospital visits, he said. "I thought, three years later I would be treated at least as your partner, which I wasn't," he told Compton.
That marked the beginning of when the couple first started to think about actively pursuing the legal protections that marriage provides.
"Back then, most people were not supporting civil unions, let alone marriage," Compton said. "We had one death threat."
In a climate where it was dangerous to be gay, Compton and Wilson took precautions the day of their wedding.
"We had to actually have police all around us and they had snipers up on the roof trying to make sure nothing happened," Compton said.
The only disruption at the Arlington Street Church that day was one of joy. When the minister began her pronouncement of marriage, the couple recalled an outburst of applause and feet stomping.
"We had to pause while the church erupted," Compton said.
Cheering followed as the minister concluded: "I hereby pronounce you legally married."
"And that's when we realized, that day wasn't about us," Compton said. "This really was for thousands and thousands of people."
A decade and a half later, Wilson feels more secure about how others respect their union.
"I have no concerns now about introducing you as my husband," he said. "No one's going to challenge that, no one's going to ask me for a marriage license.
"Right after we got married we started carrying our marriage license everywhere we went. Here we are 15 years later and I don't even know where it is."
Audio produced for Morning Edition by Michael Garofalo and Jud Esty-Kendall.
StoryCorps is a national nonprofit that gives people the chance to interview friends and loved ones about their lives. These conversations are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, allowing participants to leave a legacy for future generations. Learn more, including how to interview someone in your life, at StoryCorps.org.
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