It’s Not A Gay Thing… or Is It?

By Staff
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It’s Not A Gay Thing… or Is It?
Same-sex couples on grabbing the ring
photography by Jeff Pearcy, text by Will Fellows

The following testimonials come from Shall Not Be Recognized, an exhibit featuring photographic and verbal portraits of same-sex couples “whose committed relationships are considered by many to be unworthy of recognition.” With photos by Jeff Pearcy and text by Will Fellows, Shall Not Be Recognized ( puts a strikingly personal face on the marriage debate.

Michael Karl and Tim Greene

Together since May 15, 1989

Michael: I don’t need our marriage to be recognized by anybody to feel that we have a marriage. What bothers me is feeling less than, knowing that we are seen as a threat or as looking for some sort of special treatment, that laws have to be passed to protect people from us. What do people feel threatened by that they feel they have to change the Constitution? Tim: I’m not asking to be married in a church. I just want Michael and me to be able to get the protections that heterosexual couples get by signing that piece of paper. Michael: With our straight-couple friends, Tim and I will be sitting there arguing about things like buying a new car, or fitting a vacation in, or getting to the grandkid’s school event on time. Our friends joke that we’re just like they are, and just as boring as they are! Tim: We work, we pay taxes, we contribute to society. Michael and I have a balanced life together and we complement each other. I plan my life with Michael at my side. Michael: Tim cooks for me. That’s a very important daily commitment!

Denise Cawley and Anne Hefter

Together since March 15, 1996

Denise: Parenting is more work than we thought it would be, but it’s more fun than we thought, too. Anne: We just get each other. We have really good flow together. Denise: And we have an amazing network of friends. There are people calling, e-mailing, and coming by all the time. They are so into this baby! Anne: Deciding to have a baby started with researching a lot. There were so many things we had to figure out. Denise: One of our biggest concerns was that Wisconsin doesn’t allow adoption by same-sex second parents. We were thrilled when Anne was granted legal guardianship without my guardianship being taken away. Aidan now has two same-sex parents legally. Anne: Many people don’t understand all the ways we don’t have equal rights. Denise: We put out thousands of dollars in legal fees for things that no married couple would ever have to deal with.

Garth Wangemann and Roy Badger

Together since November 7, 1976

: Garth’s lack of health insurance is really hurting us. He’s unemployed, and the state of Wisconsin, my employer for more than 25 years, doesn’t have domestic partnership benefits. Garth: I was forced to apply for General Assistance for medical. I’m also getting food stamps. Roy: How does the 30 years that Garth and I have been in a loving relationship hurt heterosexual marriages? Why are we viewed as a threat? Garth: Attitudes toward gay people have improved drastically in the last 20 or 30 years, but there’s still a lot of fear. People are afraid of things they don’t know about. Roy: Twenty years ago, we’d be picked on when we went to the supermarket or the mall. Now, it’s no big deal. But after what we’ve gone through, you learn to be secretive.

Donna Plaski and Debbie Lang

Together since August 28, 1992

Donna: When a good friend of ours found out that we’re lesbians, he asked his wife, “Who plays the man?” Debbie: His wife socked him in the arm and said, “Get a clue! There is no man!” We still tease him about that. And there’s a man I work with who I’m very fond of, but when the marriage amendment topic came up I heard him say, “What’s to stop them from marrying two or three people?” I was floored. Donna: A lot of people have the stereotype that lesbians and gay men have a different partner every night. They don’t know that there are so many of us in long-term relationships. Debbie: Our commitment to each other extends to our families. We hear horror stories of nonacceptance, but we’ve been blessed. My family loves Donna. Thanksgiving is our holiday to have everyone over to the house. Donna: One time, one of Debbie’s nephews noticed a magazine with Melissa Etheridge on the cover. He said, “She’s gay, you know,” and another nephew said, “Yeah, so what?” It’s wonderful to see young kids with attitudes like that. That’s what’s going to change the world.

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