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David and Tony: A Love Story

May 4, 2010

By Frances Correa
Capital News Service

After two years of dating, David was finally ready to take the plunge with the love of his life.

They were on vacation in Florence, Italy, when they stopped at a park bench to rest. All of a sudden, David got down on one knee and proposed. The two rushed to a jewelry store to buy rings. David wanted to wear his ring right away, but his partner resisted until the two could be legally married.

That would be a while.

The rings sat in a drawer for four years until David and Tony could travel from their home in Virginia to California to be legally married. That was in 2008, when the Golden State temporarily granted marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

David and Tony are among many gay couples across the nation who have traveled to another state to be married while their home state refuses to recognize their union. For couples in such situations, there are several medical and legal concerns.

For David and Tony, those concerns included the ability to make medical decisions for each other, survivorship protection of their property, domestic partner insurance benefits and custody of their 3-year-old son, Giovanni, who joined the family in 2006 through the use of a surrogate mother.

“It’s been very scary living here,” Tony says. “We had very limited job protection, and with the recent administration to take over in the governor’s office and the attorney general’s office, we’ve had even less protection than before.”

Why does Virginia refuse to recognize same-sex marriage?

“Some of it is religion, and some of it is fear,” Tony said. “People are fearful of the unknown.”

People who know David and Tony as a couple and as parents seem more accepting and welcoming, because they see the issue on a more personal level, Tony said.


 


The topic of gay marriage continues to spark debate across the nation.

In 2006, Virginia passed a constitutional amendment that essentially banned gay marriages. About 57 percent of the state’s voters supported the amendment.

This spring, Delegate David Englin, D-Alexandria, introduced a bill to repeal the 2006 ban.

“If you really believe that all people have an equal and inalienable right to human freedom, which is what Virginia was founded upon and what the United States was founded upon, then you can’t take that seriously while at the same time denying a whole category of people the same right that my wife and I have,” Englin said.

Despite his efforts, his bill never made it out of the House Privileges and Elections Committee.

Virginia’s neighbors to the north have looked more kindly on the issue. Washington, D.C., has legalized gay marriage, and Maryland agreed to recognize gay marriages.

David and Tony say Virginia’s current governor and other state officials have contributed to anti-gay sentiment:

When Gov. Bob McDonnell took office, he omitted protection on the basis of sexual orientation from the executive order signed on Feb. 5.

In an effort to provide such protection, Sen. Donald McEachin, D-Richmond, introduced a bill that would have banned state agencies from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. The bill died in a subcommittee in the Virginia House.

In March, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli issued a letter to Virginia colleges and universities, encouraging them to rescind their policies of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

While David and Tony say they love their home in Central Virginia, they said these developments make them fear for the future but hope for the best.

“Virginia’s a great state. There’s a lot of wonderful things about this state, especially the people. But if that slight majority of people make life untenable, then we will get out, especially where Giovanni is concerned,” Tony said.

“I think ultimately, the tide is slowly turning, and it’s just a matter of time. But the majority of the voting bloc, at least in Virginia, is still stuck in the past.”


More: A Short History of Same-Sex Marriage