After four decades in secret, Kentucky couple fights for the next generation

Jimmy Meade and Luke Barlowe

Jimmy Meade and Luke Barlowe Courtesy ACLU

Jimmy Meade and Luke BarloweCourtesy ACLU

Jimmy Meade and Luke Barlowe

This article is one in a series showcasing the families who are plaintiffs in the marriage equality cases that will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court on April 28. Read more here.


LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Luke Barlowe and Jimmy Meade never held hands in public. For more than 40 years, they lived together quietly, afraid to out themselves as a couple.

“We grew up in an era where you didn’t show your affection for a same-sex person,” Burke said. “We’ve never gotten over that.”

They met in 1968 at the Gilded Cage gay bar in Lexington, Kentucky.

Meade, the son of a coal miner from Deane, Kentucky, first fell in love with Barlowe’s car, a white Plymouth Fury. He had grown up the youngest of 14 children, with no television and no vehicle. “It didn’t take much to impress him,” Barlowe said.

They moved in together in 1971 and kept their relationship a secret, telling people they were roommates or business partners.

But when Meade was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and preparing for chemotherapy, they went together to the barber and got their heads shaved.

They invited no one when they got married in Iowa in 2009.

Meade is 66 now and in remission; Barlowe is 73.

In 2013, they read about a legal fight against Kentucky for refusing to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. “I said, ‘Jim, this is something we need to do,'” Barlowe said. “We wanted to do this not for us – it does nothing for us – but we wanted to do it for the kids coming up behind us.”

Once they signed onto the lawsuit, they stepped out of the shadows.

Article continues below

Barlowe said he tried twice to kill himself as a teenager because he felt that the world would never accept him. It breaks his heart that a half-century later, he routinely reads about kids facing the same plight.

Meade had a doctor’s appointment recently and Barlowe filled out his paperwork. In the blank asking for their relationship, he for the first time wrote “husband.”

“It was the strangest feeling,” he said. “Even after all these years.”

© 2015, Associated Press, All Rights Reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

This Story Filed Under

Comments