UPDATE [2/15/2014, 2:05 p.m.): Just got this email update from Bill Sullivan: “We rescheduled the event for Tue., Feb. 18, at 10 a.m. We’re going to room 413 for the license at 11 a.m.”
UPDATE [2/13/2014, 9:02 p.m.): This event has been cancelled due to weather. Stay tuned to G Philly for updates on when it will be rescheduled.
Tomorrow — on Valentine’s Day, if you’re not keeping track — a group of same-sex couples will convene at City Hall to request marriage licenses.
One of those couples, Bill Sullivan, and his partner of 20 years, Bob, made history when they became the very first same-sex couple to marry in Vermont in 2009. They lived there for a few years as husband and husband before returning to Philadelphia, where they both grew up. “We were never political people,” he says. “But when we moved back to Pennsylvania our marriage became nullified. That’s when we decided to get active.”
For Bill and Bob (Billy Bob to friends), the right to be married in Pennsylvania is more than getting a piece of paper. “People ask me all the time why it’s important for us to get married if we’ve already been together for 20 years,” he says. “For us it’s about medical and financial independence.”
He tells me that Bob is disabled, which makes things like saving for joint retirement and accessing hospital records an ongoing trial for the pair. “There’s no legal way for us to take care of each other responsibly. If you condemn a whole population to live and die as a single person, they either need to be rich or they’re going to have to go on the system.”
Tomorrow’s event starts at 9 a.m., when the three to four couples will meet outside City Hall with a spectrum of local supporters — everyone from representatives from Marriage Equality USA (MEUSA), Marriage Equality Pennsylvania (ME4PA) and Philadelphia’s Summit to a pastor and other religious backers. At 9:30 a.m. they’ll head to the marriage license department (Room 413) to request a license to wed. That’s the moment Bill hopes local media outlets catch on tape — when the clerk actually has to say, “No, we aren’t allowed to issue licenses to same-sex couple.”
“We realize we’re not going to get the license,” says Bill. But capturing that instance on film and broadcasting it to the world “will be a powerful way to demonstrate what the process has been for us publicly.”