A Gay Couple's 60-Year Love Story

Hello friends, I'm Matt Baume, and thanks for subscribing to the Defining Marriage podcast, where we trace the decades-long evolution of marriage through the personal stories of those who lived through it. 

If you've been listening so far, every week you've heard me read one chapter of my book, Defining Marriage: Voices from a Forty-Year Labor of Love. If you'd like to hear the book, complete and unabridged, you can jump back and listen to the first 18 episodes of this podcast in order. Or you can pop over to Amazon and get Defining Marriage as a digital download, and now in paperback and audiobook.

Now that I've released the entire book as a podcast, for the next few episodes I'll be revisiting the marriage work that I did as an reporter and activist over the last decade. I've gathered news clips, interviews, and analysis from the dark days of marriage inequality.

This week I'm looking back at my 2011 interview with Alan Shayne and Norman Sunshine, a couple about to celebrate the 60th anniversary of their meeting. Back in 2011, they'd just written a book about their time together called Double Life, and it is an absolutely amazing story. Alan's career took him from acting on Broadway to running Warner Brothers Television; Norman is a celebrated painter and ad executive. Together they were first-hand witnesses to the monumental changes in how our culture views gay couples. Here's our interview from 2011 -- it was conducted over Skype, so the audio quality is a little scratchy, but it's worth sticking around for.

One thing that Alan and Norman commented on was how in the late 50s and early 60s they had no role models for a relationship of equals -- either gay or straight. That observation stuck with me for years after our conversation, because it really highlights that we're living in a remarkable time. Just a few decades earlier and it would be unthinkable that partners could be peers. It can be tempting to be nostalgic for simpler times, but remember, simpler isn't always better. 

That also reminded me of something Judge Vaughn Walker wrote in his 2010 ruling that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional. Walker noted that marriage is in a state of constant change, and that the institution reflects social conventions of the time. Back then, he wrote:

"The evidence shows that the movement of marriage away from a gendered institution and toward an institution free from state-mandated gender roles reflects an evolution in the understanding of gender rather than a change in marriage."

Walker also wrote that the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage:

"exists as an artifact of a time when the genders were seen as having distinct roles in society and in marriage. That time has passed."

If we have anyone to thank for gay marriage, it's really straight people. Sometime in the last few decades, they got their act together and realized that there's no reason why men and women should be required to fill different roles. And once marriage became more equal between women and men, restricting access by gender made less and less sense.

So, thanks, straight people.

In Your Arms Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) 
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0