When James Gavin steps up to the microphone, singing in the annual Windy City Gay Idol competition, which he has for six years running, the ring on his finger tells a taleand the adoring fan/cheerleader of his in the front-row completes the picture.
Gavin sings, while his husband, Dustin Gavin, supports him, always, everywhere, every way possible.
Same-sex marriage (in Iowa) made this a dynamic duo, that's for sure.
"It's amazing," James said. "He's been an amazing influence and changed my life in ways that I never thought possible. It means more than words I can say to have that person who loves me unconditionally be there, showing his support.
"It's so exciting for me to see him in the crowd smiling at me, or singing along, or dancingmaybe even more than the performing part. That's so exciting for me."
James and Dustin have been side by side for almost six years.
"We knew very early on that this relationship had very long-lasting potential. We each fell in love very early on [in the relationship,]" James said.
They got engaged, lived together for a few years, to make sure it was rightand then on Nov. 4, 2011, in Davenport, Iowa, they married in a courthouse ceremony.
"It's very important for us to have that marriage certificate," said James, whose parents attended the Iowa affair.
The day after their Iowa marriage, they were back in Chicago for a ceremony and reception at Sidetrack with family and friends. "That was very, very special to us, with people [attending] from both sides of our families," he said.
Dustin, 28, is a director of research, and he adopted James' last name.
James is a musician and actor. He finished schooling at DePaul University in late-2012 and has been auditioning and more for musical theatre this year. He also works part-time in apartment leasing.
"I realized very early on in my life that I was gay, and was out in high school," James said. "I didn't think in my lifetime I would have that opportunity to get married. As a young kid, I just thought I might have a long-lasting relationship, live with that person. I certainly didn't think I'd ever get to married, and I was very honest about that as a kid.
"So, when I got the marriage certificate in Iowa, it was so emotional. Seeing that piece of paper was so emotional. Seeing the word 'marriage' and my name, and my husband's name was so, so emotional. I was overcome by the feeling that I was able to marry the person I love, something I never thought would happen.
"It also carries the weight that so much of our country is not able to do that."
James is excited and optimistic Illinois, his native state, soon will join the states where same-sex marriage is legal.
"Times are changing; times are different than they were when I was a young kid," James said. "Today, I can sit here and say that, soon, I will see marriage in Illinois, and hopefully nationallyand that wasn't necessarily the case even a year ago. I'm now hopeful and optimistic in ways I wasn't before."
James also is optimistic that this will, finally, be his year to shine on Idol.
"I kind of accidentally stumbled across [Gay Idol] years ago, and it's something I look forward to every year. It's been a really fun event every year; I've made a lot of great friends through Idol," said James, a crooner-style singer a la Michael Buble.
"It's a tough competition every year."
Still, James has been a top 12 finalist every year he's participated, "which has been a privilege," he said.
"I hope I can make it to the finals for the sixth year in a row. I would love to win; it would be an honor."