One of the first couples to be legally married in Illinois is celebrating their 60th anniversary this year.
Jim Darby and Patrick Bova fell in love decades before they became the lead plaintiffs in Lambda Legal's lawsuit that led to the legalization of same-sex marriage in Illinois in 2014.
Darby first spotted Bova walking along the street reading a book on July 17, 1963.
"I whistled at him, but he didn't hear me," Darby recalled. "Later that night, I was headed home and unchaining my motorcycle, when I saw someone looking in the window of a bookstore and it was the same guy I'd seen hours before. I thought, 'This is fate.' I ran right over and asked him if he had a lighter, and that was it."
Darby described their relationship as a 60-year "ping-pong match," since they're always "going back and forth" with each other. Darby is Irish and Bova is Italian, but at the end of the day they're "pretty much alike," Darby said.
"We've just had a ball through everything," Darby said.
Darby taught in public schools from 1963 to 1992, while Bova was a librarian at the National Opinion Research Center until he retired in 1998. Throughout their lives, the couple was dedicated to fighting for LGBTQ+ rights.
Darby served in the military and founded Illinois chapter of Veterans for Equal Rights in 1991. At the time, LGBTQ+ people were prohibited from joining the military, so service members were forced to keep their sexualities a secret.
Darby was arrested in front of the White House during a demonstration against the "don't ask, don't tell" policy in 1993. Later, Darby was invited to the White House to celebrate the policy getting repealed.
"It was like bookends, getting arrested and then getting invited inside 25 years later," Darby said. "It was really ironic and delicious and fun."
Nowadays, Darby and Bova live in Hyde Park, where they enjoy watching movies and spending time outside in their large yard.
"We're boring as hell," Darby said.
When Darby and Bova first met, the couple didn't even consider marriage a possibility. They liked to joke with each other about how they were "living in sin," Darby said.
"In the early days, marriage was out of the question," Darby said. "You never even thought about it because marriage was an impossibility. We weren't very interested in it because I didn't need society to sanction our relationship."
Since then, they've been married four times and are considering a fifth wedding that they hope will be inside a church, Darby said.
"We decided we'll go through with it again and just do it privately," Darby said. "We've had four public marriages already, that's enough for anybody. But, I kind of want to beat Elizabeth Taylor."
After spending a few decades together, Darby began asking "priests, ministers, rabbis, reverends and anybody [he] saw," if they'd marry him to Bova.
At a wreath-laying ceremony for Leonard Matlovichthe first veteran that came out as gayin the historic Congressional Cemetary in Washington D.C., Darby asked a reverend if she'd marry them.
"She said yes, but I didn't even hear it," Darby said. "I walked away, because I was expecting a no. A few minutes later, she came over and she said, 'Well are you ready?' I said, 'For what?' She said, 'You asked me to marry you and I'm going to.'"
The couple had two minutes to figure out their vows and then they were unofficially married in 1992, Darby said. In 2011, the couple was legally joined in a civil union alongside 15 other couples.
That's when they were approached by lawyers with Lambda Legal and asked to be plaintiffs in a lawsuit for marriage equality.
"I thought, 'I don't have a boss anymore, I don't give a shit about anything,'" Darby said. "We went to court about five times and it was a lot of fun. We enjoyed the ride."
At one point during the process, a reporter asked Darby and Bova why they wanted to get married.
"I said, 'I've been to so many weddings. I've bought so many toasters and irons for wedding gifts. I just want somebody to buy me a toaster.' And they put it on the front page. When they asked Patrick, he said 'I want to get my hands on all his money,' and the Lambda Legal guy grabbed the reporter and told him not to put that in the paper."
When marriage equality took effect in Illinois in 2014, Darby and Bova were officially married at the Museum of Contemporary Art and celebrated afterward with their friends, lawyers and some of Bova's family members.
"When you're going to make the obligation of marriage, that's serious," Bova said. "But it can be fun too. Like any relationship, you have to respect the person you're with and if things aren't quite right you have to talk about it. Nothing is different about that when you're gay."