By the time this blog post is published, I will be a happily married man. On August 9th, I will be tying the knot with my partner of 10 years, John Hatchett. While our wedding ceremony will take place at the Borough Hall without much pomp or pageantry, getting married to John is one of the best things that could ever happen to me. On the eve of such a joyful occasion, I want to dedicate this post to all those gay men and women who died without the benefit of having their relationships legally recognized, as well as those left behind. As well as to the survivors who, in many cases, lost everything they owned and were denied the protections and benefits granted to heterosexual widows and widowers.

My fiancé and I are both over 40 years of age, and we are both long-term survivors of HIV. Many of our close friends are people who have been personally impacted by HIV/AIDS in different ways. For us, marriage equality is much more than a contract or a “status symbol”; it is reassurance that we, as a gay couple with HIV, can pursue happiness just like anyone else, without fearing the future.

Last night, while walking home, we were talking about the horror stories we learned about during the early days of the HIV epidemic: couples in long-term relationships separated by disapproving families and denied a goodbye before death struck; survivors who came back from burying their lovers to find an empty house, and even an eviction notice, because they couldn’t legally show that property had been bought jointly, because only one person was listed as the owner; and of course, those separated by the impossibility of family petition under immigration law.  And the list goes on… all because they did not have the opportunity that we have today in New York and 12 other states – to secure protections for our family through legal marriage. We feel truly blessed.

I consider marriage equality a huge success for many couples dealing with HIV and other conditions. Thanks to marriage equality, more people will be able to access health care through their spouses. Thanks to marriage equality, more couples will be relived of the stress caused by the possibility of separation and will be able to live their lives with hope, rather than fear. Thanks to marriage equality, I can even think about death in a different way, because I know that even then, we will have a better scenario than those who left before us.

So, tomorrow, as I say “I do,” I will be thinking of those who did not have the chance that we have now, and I will be praying for those who have yet to enjoy the benefits that come with marriage equality, such as peace of mind and a better, healthier future. And finally, to those getting married soon… MAZEL TOV!

By: Daniel Leyva

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