Midnight vows to make headlines

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Last Tuesday was only part of the story.

Right after midnight on Sept. 1, Bob and Bill Sullivan completed a journey that started in Philadelphia when they were joined as the first same-sex couple to be married under the Vermont law that went into effect that day.

The two, who now live in Whitehall, moved to the region five months ago to escape what they said was intolerance toward them in the major Pennsylvania metropolis.

“We moved up here in April to get away from the intolerance,” said Bill Slimback Sullivan, who took the last name of his husband, Bob. “Philly is a great city, but the state is terrible towards us.”

“We fled Pennsylvania,” said Bob. “We lived on the 2200 block of Bouvire and we were assaulted by the entire street. We were basically pushed around and when we called the police, they told us the best thing to do was to move. So, we were chased out of Philly and fled to Whitehall. It‘s a good place and we knew it would be a good place.”

“The choice for us was between here and Rutland, but Rutland was a lot more urban like what we just left, and we were looking more for the country life,” said Bill. “We love the history that is part of this region. Bob and I are both big American history buffs.”


Getting married

After moving up, Bob said that it was “destiny” that the couple was put into a position where they would be seen as the first same-sex couple to be married in the state.

“When we moved up here, we were not aware of the specifics of the Vermont laws,” he said. “While I was in the process of looking for a job, I called Greg Trulson (a justice of the peace) and asked him if he could perform the marriage. He asked, ‘when,’ and I said, ‘Sept. 1.’ He asked, ‘where,’ and I just said, ’in your office would be good.’

“He then said that if we had it at midnight, he could probably get a little attention for us since the law would be going into effect then. We’re night people, and we are always up at midnight, so we were all for it.”

Bill said that once they had decided to get married, getting ready locally was not what they were expecting.

“We thought there would be looks and groans as we went out and did things like getting to male wedding bands for each other,” said Bill. “But when we went shopping for the bands, there was never a second look or weird glances. There was extraordinary acceptance.”

“That’s what stands out for me being in this area,” added Bob.

Bob said that for him, marriage was the only way he and Bill would go because he felt it was the right thing to do.

“I wouldn’t accept a civil union because I have strong Christian values,” said Bob. “It had to be the institution of marriage or nothing. We didn’t get a great big church wedding, but that’s OK, because it is the institution that counts.”

Before the wedding, Bill decided that he would take the last name of Sullivan.

“My mother passed away in January and my family has become pretty thin,” said Bob. “It was amazing when Bill said that he would take my last name. I even said in our vows that I would do everything that I could to make him proud to have taken the name Sullivan.”


Media attention

While the couple were well aware of the cameras and the reporters that joined them at the Moose Meadow Lodge in Duxbury, Vt., for their marriage, they did not realize just how far the story would reach.

“I did a Google search on the name ’Bill Slimback’ the next morning,” said Bob. “It was amazing. The Associated Press story had been taken by everyone across the nation, and I even saw his named appearing on a Web site for a newspaper in Paris, France.”

“We were not looking for this attention and we were not looking to be activists,” said Bill, “but if this sheds lights on our cause and what we want to accomplish, then we are fine with that.”

“It may only be the 15 minutes that everyone gets,” said Bob. “But this is important. Forget about whether or not you are for gay marriage, it is a financial benefit to everyone because if Bill gets sick and he is not on health care, then if we are not married, he has to go on welfare and all of the taxpayers in the country are paying for him. Now that we are married, he can go on my insurance. I can take care of myself fine, and I can take care of him as well. I don’t need the government’s help when it comes to something like that, and I don’t want the help of the taxpayers because their money does not need to go here.”

“If you have a problem with us because we are gay, then that’s fine,” added Bill. “Everyone is entitled to their opinion. But if that is the case, you stay over on your side, because I am going to stay on mine and not try and tell you how to live your life.”

The couple said that they hope to eventually move to Vermont, but are happy where they are now and know that their marriage is recognized.

“We knew that the marriage would be accepted here in New York,” said Bob. “I think that is something, along with a lot of our story, that the national media forgot to pick up on, that we are recognized as a married couple under the laws of New York State.”

Overall, both men said that living in Whitehall has allowed them to find what they did not have in Pennsylvania.

“We are happy here, and we were able to accomplish something special,” said Bob.



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