He was a Navy veteran from World War Two. He eagerly volunteered and fought bravely as one of the Greatest Generation as they are now called, so that we and millions around the world could live free. His Navy picture on the side of his casket shown with the eagerness of a young man ready and happy to fight for his country.
Afraid their families would not approve, he and his fiancee kept their love secret for 50 years. They both held great jobs, went on vacations, paid their taxes and volunteered for their favorite social causes to make the world they lived in a better place for all of us.
After so many years together, they decided a year and a half ago to tell their families about their secret love, and their families smiled and gave their blessing. The prejudice they may have suffered 50, 25 or even 10 years ago had melted to love and understanding, and so, their forbidden love was finally free to be expressed publicly.
Can you imagine loving someone so much that you would spend a lifetime in secret just to be with that person? How many of you have known that kind of love? How many of you have gotten a divorce over money, stressful jobs or another person? For those of you in love now, can you even imagine the pressure of NEVER being able to express your love in public and still staying together for 50 years?
True love has never been so real to me. When my husband of 18 years and I have a spat, I think of my friend Richard sticking it out with his fiancee for 50 years in secret, and my love for my husband instantly grows.
Their love has strengthened my marriage.
Ray is one of the nicest men I have ever met in my life. The sweetness I saw as he carefully steadied the ill love of his life was the most tender thing I have ever known. Only true love can be expressed in a touch of the hand.
Ray was so excited about getting married! He asked me to speak at the service. An honor I would be so humbled by I began to cry. His marriage would be in a church, in front of all of his friends and family, and with the blessing of a loving and just God who gave him a love that would last a lifetime.
Ray with Richard by his side gave a speech in March that brought the entire room to a roaring standing ovation (Richard is on the left and Ray is on the right). Read their words. Powerful, spoken with love and poured over for hours before the dinner, they spoke with heart and humanity.
Richard and Ray would never get get married in September as they had planned, but it doesn't matter. The state would not have recognized it anyway, because even though their church and their God approved, the law does not. So much for Freedom of Religion...
Society may have lost compassion for them, but the compassion they had for one another and society will never cease.
Society may be mean and cruel, but the love they spread to everyone they met gives me hope.
Society may turn it's back on one group or another at any given time in history for the convenience of a few, but eventually a love, a true honest and beautiful love like Richard and Ray's will be recognized as valid.
Richard and Ray are your neighbors, friends, co-workers, families and loved ones. Do you have the love in you to vote NO?
I will so miss my friend Richard.
I will stand strong with my friend Ray in the fight for equality.
I will vote NO on the Discrimination Amendment because it's just wrong, evil and disgusting that my friends were forced by an inhuman society to live a secret love for 50 years.
The day before Richard died, Ray left his side at the hospital to give a speech against the Amendment. Richard grabbed his hand and said, "I'll be at your side." The last year and a half had been the best time of their lives.
The amazing thing is that Ray told me yesterday he knows it will take time for our society (that has been so cruel) to find it's humanity, but that's okay, because Richard is standing beside him with 50 years of love to keep him strong.
Only true love can find true forgiveness...especially when it's not deserved.