American Foundation for Equal Rights

Marriage News Blog

Growing Old Together: Ray and Michael’s Love Story

AFER’s Love Stories series tells the stories of couples who are waiting to get married. If you are a gay and lesbian couple who is planning to get married, tell us your story and you could be featured.

Ray Rodriguez of Colorado recently retired after 21 years of service to his country in the United States Marine Corps.

Yet despite his bravery and willingness to die for his country, he was not afforded the same rights enjoyed by the men and women he stood beside.

“One problem I always had was trying to get Michael on the military base to see me,” says Ray. Because they are not married, they always had to go through extra hurdles and paperwork in order to see each other.

Because of his service, Ray is now entitled to several military benefits that would extend to Michael if circumstances were different. “If we were married [and the federal government recognized our marriage] and if I were to pass away, Michael would be protected. It is only fair that he receive what anyone else’s spouse would.”

From the First Date to Forever

Based on their love and commitment to each other, you would never guess that Michael and Ray’s first date was not very traditional. As a matter of fact, Ray didn’t even know that it was a date at the time!

“Michael and I met through a mutual friend. That friend told Michael that we were going to meet on a blind date, but I was not aware,” jokes Ray. “So I pretty much ignored him most of the evening.”

Michael says that he fell in love with Ray that first night they met. Since then, they have moved around Colorado and settled into a cozy home where they plan to grow old together.

“We love each other so much. We make sure we say, ‘I love you’ at least once a day. It’s important to us.

Dreaming of a Wedding

In August of 2005, Michael and Ray had been together for about a year and a half – and it had been the happiest time of their lives. However, they were looking for a way to take their love to the next step.

On a vacation to Hawaii, Ray set up a small, but beautiful ceremony with a minister and his sister, and Ray and Michael got their “Certified Reciprocal Beneficiary Relationship” from the state of Hawaii.

“We were both so happy and joyful at our ceremony and it felt just like a real wedding!” recalls Michael. “But we both knew that it was not legal still.”

After eight years together, Ray and Michael are still seeking a way to fill the void where their wedding belongs. Michael found the Colorado “Designated Beneficiary Agreement” that grants couples more rights and protections, although never the same as marriage and not the federal rights and privileges Michael is missing out on.

“At least we felt joined together at a ceremony we both loved,” says Ray. For them though, it is still not enough. “Michael really is the man that I love and I want to be married to for the rest of my life.”

“We love each other, we live together, we own a home, we are happy together and we want to get married. Why won’t they let us?”