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Views & Voices

An American Love Story

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Just over a year ago, my partner, Tom Bridegroom, accidentally fell off a roof while taking photographs of our best friend. He died a few hours later. He was just 29 years old.

We had been together for nearly six years when that happened and were absolutely committed to being together for the rest of our lives. We’d bought a home together. We’d started a business together. We’d adopted a dog together. We dreamed of starting a family when we could, and getting married as soon as it became legal.

Shane Bitney Crone and Tom Bridegroom

Because we weren’t able to marry and because, young and feeling invincible, we hadn’t had papers drawn up that would’ve protected us if one of us died, I lost all claim to Tom after he fell. Tom’s parents, who were opposed to him being gay and opposed to our relationship as a result, had all the legal rights and I had none.

For those out there who do not think they know someone who’s been deeply hurt by laws that prevent people from marrying the ones they love? Well, now you do, My name is Shane Bitney Crone.

Despite the fact that Tom no longer considered Indiana his home and had a strained relationship with his father and had told me that he wanted to be cremated, his parents took his body back to Indiana and buried it in a plot between their own.

Even though Tom called me the love of his life and his life partner, they wouldn’t let me come to his funeral.

In fact, a family member called to warn me that his father and uncle planned an attack if I dared show my face. Even though I was his first love and he was mine, I was not there with him to say goodbye as he was buried. Fearing for my life, I had to ask a mutual friend to kiss the casket for me and to tell Tom, one last time, that I loved him.

Why am I telling you all this? Because after a year of sorrow and fear I have decided to use what happened to me to help others who might find themselves in similar situations.

A few weeks ago I made a short video about my experience (called “It Could Happen to You”), and posted it on YouTube. Over 2.7 million people have watched my video and nearly fifty thousand have written messages of support.

People from all over the world have written to me to tell me of how moved they have been by our story. Many have told me that their life-long opposition to same-sex marriage was changed after seeing the YouTube video.

Because of this response, and hopeful that we can reach even more people, I have joined with producers Linda Bloodworth-Thomason (“Designing Women” and “The Man From Hope”) and Linda Burstyn (Emmy award-winning writer/producer for “Nightline” with Ted Koppel) to turn that video into a feature-length documentary: “BRIDEGROOM, An American Love Story.”

We hope to get it out as soon as possible so that it can play a meaningful role in the burgeoning debate over marriage equality.

BRIDEGROOM will be much more than a tragic love story. This film will represent every person who has ever been ostracized and condemned for being who they are and loving whom they love.

Although there are millions of people who oppose me and some who have threatened me, the time has come for me personally to step out of my comfort zone, to accept the experiences I have had, and to try to help people as a result.

We can’t change the past, but I truly believe that when people join together to spread the message — that love is what matters in life — we can change the future so that marriage is a reality for all.

It’s been over a year since Tom made that one wrong step — the step that ended his life and killed a part of my own. He was beautiful. He was kind. He was generous. He would be horrified to see what happened to me. What I’m trying to do is make sure that step was more than fatal — perhaps it was fateful as well.

For more information, visit the Bridegroom Kickstarter page.

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22 more reader comments:

  1. You can’t help who you fall in love with. Gender shouldn’t matter–only love should.

    Posted on Sunday, July 1, 2012 at 12:38pm
  2. How evil that a family would behave in this manner.

    Posted on Sunday, July 1, 2012 at 12:45pm
  3. Heart wrenching.

    Posted on Sunday, July 1, 2012 at 12:49pm
  4. shit like that makes me lose faith in humanity… :,( im so sorry for such a horrible loss..

    Posted on Sunday, July 1, 2012 at 12:49pm
  5. so sad

    Posted on Sunday, July 1, 2012 at 12:50pm
  6. All my prayers and hope to you!

    Posted on Sunday, July 1, 2012 at 12:53pm
  7. I saw that video. Sucks.

    Posted on Sunday, July 1, 2012 at 1:02pm
  8. All my thoughts and prayers, it breaks my heart,love

    Posted on Sunday, July 1, 2012 at 1:05pm
  9. If this story doesn’t melt the cold hearts of homophobic individual then I don’t know if anything will, such a moving story!

    Posted on Sunday, July 1, 2012 at 1:13pm
  10. i was just curious did they have an open or a closed relationship ?

    Posted on Sunday, July 1, 2012 at 1:17pm
  11. My condolences for your loss. I couldn’t imagine losing my partner and I can’t imagine how you have been able to deal.

    Posted on Sunday, July 1, 2012 at 1:20pm
  12. Heartbreaking. The bigots don’t care nor realize that ‘love’ is ‘love and ‘loss’ is ‘loss’. it knows no orientation or belief. Words can’t describe the sadness I feel for him. Imagine what he has to live through and endure.

    Posted on Sunday, July 1, 2012 at 1:24pm
  13. So glad this story is getting picked up by more people now. when I first saw Shane’s video I cried my eyes out. I really don’t understand Tom’s family.. how anyone could be so cruel is beyond me..
    but I really hope they will reach (or surpass) the goal on kickstarter and the documentary gets made.

    everyone please consider supporting the project – if they don’t reach the goal by the 19th they don’t get any of the money!

    Posted on Sunday, July 1, 2012 at 1:45pm
  14. not even allowing him to come to the funeral, that’s so cold.

    Posted on Sunday, July 1, 2012 at 1:52pm
  15. THis was heartbreaking.

    Posted on Sunday, July 1, 2012 at 3:32pm
  16. I am so angry, I could spit… (Ordinarily, I would say something much more profane.) Thank you for considering me (us) in posting your story. Love y’all. Frederique A. Earle MD PhD, Las Vegas.

    Posted on Sunday, July 1, 2012 at 3:38pm
  17. … which is why I cling to living in NYC…

    Posted on Sunday, July 1, 2012 at 3:58pm
  18. Look I am a very young LGBTQ member. Hearing a story like this, makes me not want to live in a country that is so blinded by a one sided religion. I too am christian, I am a homosexual christian, and for my rights as a normal American to be denied, such as marriage or just the simple equality is not acceptable. If this country were not allowed freedom of religion or freedom of speech then we would have nearly the whole country in an outburst, if not the law would have already been changed. However, when two same sex people want to show what they believe as love, it is denied because certain individuals are so close minded that they can not see past their own beliefs to allow others to believe on their own. At this point my heart goes out to this couple, what happened is beyond devastating and not acceptable. I understand that this is a fight that has been going on for years and years, but I know that through persistence of the LGBTQ we are closer to having our rights as normal human beings on this planet. I as a young adult would like to understand a little more how it is ok for millions and millions of people to stand up to one community and say “no you’re not going to get married, because your fags, and my god does not allow that.” That is the type of simple mindedness that can destroy all of ones beliefs and hopes for something that may seem out of reach, but just for the record. There will always be a fight from me, one day if love permits, I shall see my husband walk down the aisle at me, and I will say those words “I do”. Intolerance is one thing, stupidity and selfishness is another. They should not be combined however they also should not be underestimated. The fight I understand is far from over, but the fight in my heart for my equality has just started. Thank you for opening my eyes and seeing what a few laws and a few (a lot) of people can change by just doing what we are trying to do, fight for our rights. This battle is far from won, but also this battle has won over so many people. Thanks again.

    Posted on Sunday, July 1, 2012 at 5:49pm
  19. Paul Stark: Out here we say clang to… LOL, We both trained, practiced and lived in NYC for 13 years. I miss NYC, but we are Californians. THERE IS NO PLACE ON EARTH LIKE… New York… I would love to chat… but out of reverence for our friends that posted this most moving story, I will refrain (for the moment) TTYL, Fred and Dale

    Posted on Sunday, July 1, 2012 at 6:14pm
  20. wow, that just breaks my heart.

    Posted on Sunday, July 1, 2012 at 6:25pm
  21. Andrew Lawless: WE THINK YOU ARE SOOO KOOL! Fred and Dale, Las Vegas

    Posted on Sunday, July 1, 2012 at 6:27pm
  22. I am sorry for your loss.

    Posted on Monday, July 2, 2012 at 12:16am