STORIES: Gary & Dean

Gary & Dean

When we first got together, we decided Iowa was not the place for a gay couple, so in 2003 we decided to move from our Mason City home to a big city where we could melt into the anonymous life that large crowds and big cities afforded.

But when Gary, a physician radiologist, told his medical partners, who knew nothing of our relationship, about his decision to move, they pressed him for a reason. Finally, after much tap dancing around the issue, he simply told them the truth.

The response was amazing: “If you think it matters, it doesn’t, so why do you have to move?”

After a lot of soul searching, we decided to stay in Mason City and build a life here. The irony is, if we had moved, we’d be living in Ohio now, wishing we lived in Iowa so we could get married.

We had a holy union ceremony at First Presbyterian Church in 2004, but when civil marriage became an option in 2009, we decided to go all out and have one hell of a Big Fat Gay Wedding.

We rented the Music Man Square in Mason City, and 400 of our friends came to the ceremony on May 31, 2009. Forty members of the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus provided music, and the Reverend Dr. Mel White, founder of SoulForce, flew in from Virginia to perform the ceremony. A florist friend ordered specialty rainbow roses, each petal a different color of the rainbow, from a floral company in Holland.

It was a fabulous day, but nothing prepared us for the feeling of validation our wedding brought. We always felt married, but when we were finally LEGALLY married — with recognition from the state — we were overwhelmed with the sense of wholeness that accompanied the event.

Finally, in the eyes of the state of Iowa, we were fully human, allowed to participate in the most basic of human aspirations. Before the marriage we never missed that feeling because we never knew what it felt like. But after the ceremony, the affirmation of full inclusion in society swept over us in unexpected fullness. We feel the lack of federal recognition all the more keenly now that we know what we have in Iowa.
We still have opportunities to educate. When Dean buys flowers for Gary, the store clerk might say, “Your wife is going to love these,” and Dean will respond, “I actually have a husband, but yes, he will enjoy these very much.”

When the registration clerk at the Family Practice Clinic refers to Gary as Dean’s husband without any prompting on our part, we know the concept of marriage equality is taking root and gaining acceptance.

Recently a doctor from California applied for a job with Gary’s medical group. As the emails were going back and forth, a careful reading made it evident the doctor was married to a man and had concerns about how they would fit in as residents of rural Iowa. Gary took the opportunity to tell him our story, and reassure him we were treated very well by our community.

Folks still have difficulty understanding Iowa is well ahead of the country on civil rights issues. When they discover the truth, their admiration of our state soars. It’s gratifying to be part of that.

We have always been in favor of marriage equality; we simply never thought it would happen in our lifetimes. And we believe marriage equality has changed Iowa for the better. For the most part, people in Iowa want their neighbors to find happiness and joy. It is a grand thing to see.

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