It's 2015 and the U.S. Supreme Court is likely to issue a decision that could alter the course of the marriage equality movementnationwide. Chicago couple of 13 years, Brian Thompson and Benjamin Rogers, are navigating the patchwork of state marriage laws just like so many other same-sex couples in the country, and they are hoping for swift and immediate action at the Supreme Court of the United States ( SCOTUS ) this June.
Rogers told Windy City Times, "Brian is such a sweet and sincere human being. He is a great friend to all of the people in his life and a constant support to me. My favorite thing about him is his childlike enthusiasm for things that he lovesfrom Whitney Houston to playing Streetfighter with friends, to baking and eating sweets. His delight is infinitely delightful."
When the tables were turned, Thompson issued an equally brilliant response.
"I always feel very lucky to have met someone so loving. Even in moments when I'm not the most loveable, his first instinct is to make sure I feel love and know that above anything else he will always be there for me," said Thompson. "Additionally, his face lights up whenever I come into the room. And not a day goes by when he doesn't call me handsome. I'm very lucky."
Wait, wait, wait. It can't all be sunshine and roses all the time, right?
"Of course, there are things that annoy and frustrate me," Thompson said. "He loves to talk and especially likes to ask questions. He also likes to try to 'hug it out' when we argue. But Ben wouldn't be Ben without those things. And a lot of the things that frustrate me are really due to faults of my own."
Rogers added, "There are some points [when] Brian is set in his ways and resistant to trying new things. I would love it if he would see some more independent films with me or attend more concerts I'm excited to see. But generally, I think we work because we are so opposite in parts of our personalities. Changing too much would mess up our balance."
Windy City Times: You are both a part of this historic SCOTUS decision. How do you feel?
Brian Thompson: I feel very fortunate to see such a historic event unfold. You think back to what our parents and grandparents saw transpireWorld Wars, the civil-rights movement, etc. This is our moment…and the significant stories that we will tell the next generation.
Benjamin Rogers: I am very excited for same-sex couples throughout the nation who will hopefully gain this important civil right for the first time, and also for other couples who can feel more secure in getting married with no more fear of appeal or waiting for a judge's decision or threat of a constitutional ban.
We are very lucky in Illinois that marriage equality came through legislative actionso once it finally became legal, Brian and I could get married with a feeling of finality. It really puzzles me why there is such vitriolic opposition from people who wouldn't be affected at all. The right to marry the person you love and the legal protections that right affords will only add more happiness to the world. And to think that there are couples who are still waiting for that right or are stuck in a limbo, such as my cousin and her partner in Indiana who were going to get married in the brief period it was legal but had to delay to raise the funds to apply for a license and then suddenly they couldn't get married because of an appeal, just makes me so frustrated. My fingers are crossed that this is soon settled once and for all.
WCT: How did you initially become involved with this issue: marriage equality?
Brian Thompson: Well, we were sort of born into the issue. But I think I first started consciously fighting for change the summer after my first year in law school when I interned for Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders ( GLAD ) in Boston. They had recently argued the marriage case in Massachusetts. It was amazing to see such smart, passionate and dedicated people fighting for justice. It really inspired me not to just sit on the sidelines.
Benjamin Rogers: We got married once it was legal and we live our lives openly, so I suppose we have been involved since August 9, 2014. I really am grateful for all of the individuals and activists who dedicated all of their energy and decades of their lives to bring the marriage equality movement to where it is today. Without their work on the issue, we wouldn't have the privilege to be married now.
WCT: How did you guys meet? Was it love at first sight?
Brian Thompson: We first met senior year of college at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana. We were both applying for the same job to work at DePauw. It was definitely love at first sight for me. I remember seeing him for the first time walking across the academic quad and then basically finding every opportunity to be where he was.
Benjamin Rogers: Brian got the job and I didn't, but that didn't matter though because I got Brian's attention. I was pretty oblivious at the time but he began making efforts to meet up with me in random places like the library or the bar ( both places where I spent lots of time. ) Finally, I woke up from my haze and realized how great of a guy he was. I asked him on a date and then for me it was a very quick trip from being curious about him to falling in love and wanting to spend all of my time with him. Not getting that job was the best thing that ever happened to me!
WCT: Were your families initially accepting of your relationship?
Brian Thompson: It took my mom some time to figure everything out. My dad died my senior year of college. My grandma [her mother] died soon after that. I also came out to her that year. So she was dealing with a lot at one time. She was always very loving to Ben, but it took her a little while to wrap her head around her son being gay and what that meant for my relationships and my future. It's been even less of an issue with Ben's parents. They have always been loving and supportive. And in the end, our mothers officiated our wedding, and we were surrounded by our family and close friends.
Benjamin Rogers: I am very lucky that my family is very supportive and loving and they have always been accepting of me and my relationships. Brian is such a wonderful man that they probably fell in love with him at the same rate that I did.
WCT: How has your family dynamic changed since becoming married, if at all?
Brian Thompson: I use the word husband a lot more, and we no longer have to worry about whether we can get married. But we'd been together 13 years before we got married. So our family dynamic has been pretty well established for a while.
Benjamin Rogers: I think we've always worked to have a strong, loving bond and be the best support we can for one another. The only change I can really point to is that others seem more invested in our relationship and acknowledge it more.
WCT: Generally speaking, how might marriage equality nationwide affect personal finances for Americans?
Brian Thompson: Marriage equality would affect personal finances immensely for LGBTQ couples. There are 1,138 federal benefits, rights and protections provided through marital status. There are so many perils that couples don't even think about that marrying can diminish. It's a pretty big deal.
WCT: Could you offer any advice to couples across the U.S. trying to make a difference in their communities?
Brian Thompson: I think the main thing is to live your life out and open. The more people are exposed to actual LGBTQ people, the less likely they will be influenced by negative stereotypes that they see on TV or hear about from the friends, neighbors and churches.
WCT: As same-sex couples prepare for tax season, is there any advice you could give with current laws in place?
Brian Thompson: Get a good tax advisor. People who know the ins and outs of the tax laws can walk you through all of the complexities and give you guidance on how to think about your life according to your Form 1040. There are still complications that come from this patchwork of marriage laws. So going to someone who has seen different scenarios and can guide you through them is crucial.
WCT: Pop culture plays a defining role in the way we perceive ourselves as children and into our teens. Who were some of your idols/inspirations growing up?
Brian Thompson: Like most people I admired celebritiesWhitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jackson, Michael Jordan, Michael Johnson [the track star] … a lot of Michaels. Phenomenally talented people who were the very best of what they do.
Benjamin Rogers: I grew up in a small, rural town and I really didn't have much exposure to counter-culture figures and queer artists, but the ones I knew of really shaped my sensibility. Michael Stipe was probably the most profoundboth for his avant-garde style and insistence that "labels are for soup cans" and so folks shouldn't really fixate so much on defining sexuality. Allen Ginsberg was the first queer writer I read who wrote frankly and often explicitly about his love and relationships with other men. I found his poetry both validating and inspirational. And Keith Haring was someone I loved simply for his art, but once I discovered in high school that he was also queer and a dedicated AIDS activist, it made me want to harness my creativity in similar ways.