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Gay Couple Celebrates 50 Years Together—Without a Wedding

George and Doug - portrait

By Dorian Block

George Blomme, 82, and Doug McClure, 76, want to get married, but despite the legalization of same-sex marriage, they still can’t.

In 1966, George, then 32, and Doug, then 26, met at a mutual friend’s holiday party. George was smitten when Doug followed up with a hand-written card in the mail. They have been together ever since despite the challenges of being gay during years of rampant prejudice and discrimination.

Early in their relationship, they regularly hosted parties in their home, hoping to create a meeting place for others who were gay.

 “When we got together, there were only awful dive bars on dark streets or gay bathhouses to meet people. We wanted to make sure there were alternatives to that,” George said.           



They built successful careers – George as a transportation planner and Doug in banking and finance. They lived in a dozen homes together, mostly in New York City, with short stints in California and New Jersey. They also supported and lost friends during the AIDS epidemic (“the plague”) – a devastating time in the gay community which also led to further homophobia.

In 1981, after they heard stories about housing and health care discrimination against gay couples, they discovered there was a legal loophole in New York (and other states) that would allow one adult to adopt another. They seized the opportunity for a legal relationship, and Doug became George’s father. The surrogate judge, who handled adoptions of children, gave George a lollipop as a congratulations the day she finalized their adoption.

 The loophole in New York State was closed several years later. And George and Doug have had legal protection since then.

 So, in June 2015, when the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, and it seemed all legal barriers came falling down, George and Doug thought it just might be their time for a wedding. While their love had endured for decades, they were concerned about several practical matters.

They worried about whether they would maintain access to each other’s benefits without being married now that same-sex option was legalized, and also whether they would face challenges in a health emergency.

 “We’re not getting any younger. I thought maybe we should get married,” George said.

 “As we age, we should be providing for each other the best that we can,” Doug said. “And we also think that getting married would be fun.”

George and Doug Early In Their Relationship2

Their 50th anniversary was approaching in December 2016, and it seemed like a perfect reason for a party. But within a few months of the Supreme Court decision, they determined that marriage was not an option.

Two attorneys who specialize in adoptions within same-sex families advised them that reversing their adoption would be a long and complex process without precedent. They said it would likely be impossible to undue their adoption so that they could get married without committing incest.

“While we would like to get married, it is more important to the community than it is to us. We know who we are and what keeps us together, and it ain’t a ring,” Doug said.

 In December, George and Doug celebrated their anniversary with a celebration at Manhattan’s Le Parker Meridien Hotel. They were pleasantly surprised that Doug’s brother and his family and friends from around the country flew in to celebrate. Doug chose the flowers – white with some gold. They jointly chose the menu. They made carefully curated photo boards, documenting almost every year of their relationship with one photo, showing how they’ve aged and where they’ve traveled. They shopped for matching watches, an anniversary tradition they do every few years.

 They asked for no toasts, no prayers, no political talk and no gifts in honor of the occasion, except for donations to the School of American Ballet, where Doug is a volunteer. Despite the promise of no toast, Doug couldn’t help but welcome their guests with a quick speech which elicited head nodding and some tears.

 “When we started 50 years ago, it wasn’t a real easy thing to do for two men, and we’re really happy that it has become easier over the years, not only for us, because we are an ideal couple (this elicited laughs), but also because it has become easier for everyone in our community really to move forward together and have a life together without it being so difficult and packed with potential issues.”

 

Dorian Block is following George, Doug and 18 other older New Yorkers over two years through photos and storytelling at www.exceedingexpectations.nyc. She works at the Columbia Aging Center at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.