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Carol Marin: Some sunshine breaks the gloom left by Springfield’s failed efforts

Patrick BovJames Darby were among first get civil unilicense Cook County clerk’s office Daley Center June 2011. |  Sun-Times

Patrick Bova and James Darby were among first to get a civil union license at the Cook County clerk’s office in the Daley Center in June 2011. | Sun-Times Library

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It was pouring rain, the basement was flooding, and a bedroom window was leaking when state Rep. Deborah Mell got the news. She burst into tears but it was a distinctly different kind of downpour.

Mell, 44, learned of the Supreme Court’s decision from her Twitter feed.

Jim Darby and Patrick Bova, 81 and 75 respectively, got the news the old fashioned way, in front of a TV in their Hyde Park home. Bova’s eyes filled with tears.

As I wrote last Sunday, Darby is a retired teacher and military veteran, and Bova, a retired librarian. They have loved each other and lived together for almost 50 years.

What they would love to be is legally married.

They sat in the gallery of the Illinois House in May with the high hope that we would become the 13th state to legalize same-sex marriage. As we all know, that didn’t happen.

Down on the floor of the House, Mell gave voice to their shared sorrow and disappointment. Beside her, as she addressed her colleagues, was her 38-year-old wife, Christin Baker, whom she legally wed in Iowa in August 2011.

So stirring were Mell’s words and those of Rep. Greg Harris, the bill’s sponsor, that even opponents applauded. This might be a good place to remember that opponents of same-sex marriage are not automatically homophobes or bigots.

It’s too soon to know the full impact of the Supreme Court decision. For instance, Mell and Baker were married in Iowa but they don’t live in Iowa. Will the federal benefits umbrella have any limits based on residency?

“It could get confusing,” Mell acknowledged.

“I had a 50/50 feeling on this,” Bova said by phone shortly after the 5 to 4 vote. “I thought about Clarence Thomas,” he said of the only African-American on the court and one of four dissenters. “Before 1957 he couldn’t get married to a white woman [which he ultimately did],” he said, adding wistfully, “You’d think he’d be for it.”

It’s been a long journey for Bova and Darby. Not as long for Deborah Mell but difficult nonetheless.

I first met the daughter of 33rd Ward Ald. Dick Mell not long after she was arrested and jailed in 2004 for picketing outside City Hall in support of same-sex marriage.

Battling leaky windows and a wet basement Wednesday morning, by comparison, was nothing.

Especially when the Supreme Court of the United States that morning brought the sun out.



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